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Almost 4,000 volunteers gathered on Sunday at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre to help pack aid boxes for Palestinian people in Gaza.
The collection is the latest in what is expected to be a series of Compassion (Tarahum) for Gaza campaign packing events, with details and dates to be announced soon, organisers said.
Rashid Al Mansouri, deputy secretary-general for local affairs at Emirates Red Crescent, praised residents across the UAE who “rushed and raced to participate and donate to the Compassion for Gaza campaign”.
“In spite of us having specified hours [9am to 2pm], we saw a large number of volunteers come even before then and that shows how the UAE’s [residents] regard humanitarian work and how much they want to help,” he said.
The event was part of the Compassion for Gaza campaign organised by ERC, the World Food Programme, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Community Development.
On the campaign's first day on Sunday, October 15, at Mina Port in Abu Dhabi, 13,000 parcels were packed.
Events took place on Saturday at Al Rimal Hall in Dubai and Expo Centre in Sharjah. Between all three events this weekend, organisers said around 25,000 boxes have been prepared.
Volunteers of all nationalities gathered in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
For Emirati Jawaher Al Menhali, 28, it was her second time as a volunteer to send aid to Palestine.
“It isn’t about country or nationality or religion. It is about helping the people,” she said. “This is what the UAE is – it is helping your family in a time of need.
“We are filled with compassion, and Palestine, in particular, has very close ties with the community from the time of our Founding Father Sheikh Zayed.
“The community here is huge, but regardless of any country ever in need, the UAE will always be there to support them.”
Safwat El Gawly, 79, from Egypt and his daughter Amira, 38, were among those standing in the long rows of people, packing boxes.
“We want to do everything we can with our hands and hearts to help the people in Gaza,” said Amira, who was born in the UAE.
“This is a tragedy beyond imagination and we are ready to do whatever we can. If there was a plane going right now to go to Gaza, I would be on it, but for now, this is all I can do.”
Many families were there to to help with donations. Abdullah Al Saadi and two of his four children were with him on Sunday.
“As an Emirati, I have an obligation to serve in whatever way I can,” he said. “Today, we are one and it isn’t about religion or country. We are here to help in any way possible.”
Fatima Al Hosani, 17, said she wanted to do what she could to help the Palestinians in Gaza.
“Many of the families of my friends have died and this is the least I could do,” she said. “These are people who are in a crisis. Young children and babies and innocent civilians have died – I couldn’t just stand by and do nothing.”
Halla Al Abed from Saudi Arabia, who was with her daughter Ghada, said the event helped to give a sense of unity.
“We felt helpless, but being here and seeing everyone is really amazing,” Ms Abed said.
“You have a sense of unity, which is what is needed in these circumstances,” she said.
Mohamed Al Fahim, 30, said that watching the news and all the images of the deaths is heartbreaking
“We have all seen the images on the news and everyone here today is looking to help,” he said. “Palestinians are part of our community and what we are seeing today is traumatic. How do you expect anyone to not react and do whatever they can to help?”
On Saturday, a convoy of 20 lorries took relief to the Gaza Strip, but humanitarian organisations and many of the residents said it was not enough.
A large proportion of Gaza's 2.4 million people rely on aid, but the densely populated area has been deprived of fuel, food, water and medical supplies for two weeks, due to Israeli bombardment since the unprecedented Hamas attack on October 7.
NGO officials who spoke to The National from Gaza said the Red Crescent has been pleading for the establishment of a humanitarian corridor so that aid can reach the millions of people in Gaza.