Indian family desperately waits to hear from daughter in Gaza

New Delhi says at least four of its citizens are stranded in the besieged Palestinian territory

Lubna Shaboo, 52, from Kashmir lives with her Palestinian husband and younger daughter Karima, in the Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis. Photo: Adnan Jan
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A Kashmiri family from India is desperately waiting to hear from their daughter who is stranded in Gaza.

Lubna Shaboo, 52, is a resident of Khan Younis, a town in the Gaza Strip, with her Palestinian husband and daughter Karima, 10. Her two elder children study in Cairo, Egypt.

The family is among 2.2 million people in the besieged Palestinian territory, which had its power cut off by Israel and where water and food supplies are running out.

Her cousin Adnan Jan, a resident of Kashmir’s Srinagar, said Ms Shaboo had immediately sought evacuation after Hamas militants launched a surprise attack on Israel last Saturday, but was trapped in the subsequent bombardment.

Ms Shaboo last spoke to her mother Fatima on Wednesday and the family has not heard from her since.

“We do not know where she is and in which condition. She spoke to her mother on video call and told her that she wants to return to Kashmir but is unable to leave Gaza. She was scared and worried.”

“She has been living in Gaza since 1997 but said that she has not seen such a situation before. She told us that she is without water and electricity and there is constant fear looming,” Mr Jan told The National.

Mr Jan said Ms Shaboo had contacted the Representative Office of India in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, but they had not been informed about an imminent evacuation mission.

Her family has also been unable to head to Egypt as the only crossing route from Gaza at Rafah has been shut down.

The Indian External Affairs Ministry on Thursday confirmed that about four Indian citizens were stranded in Gaza, with the government unable to bring them back due to “constraints”.

“There are three to four Indian citizens in Gaza and a dozen in the West Bank … there are constraints to directly evacuate them, but we will try our best to evacuate them,” ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said.

Mr Shaboo's family is hoping that New Delhi will soon launch a mission similar to Operation Ajay, which brought 212 Indians home on Friday.

“We hope that just like Indians have been brought back from Israel, my cousin too returns home safely. Her mother’s health is deteriorating since the war has broken out,” Mr Jan said.

Operation Ajay is a mission to arrange the return of Indians stranded in Israel through chartered flights.

As many as 212 Indians, including an infant, landed at the international airport in New Delhi on Friday morning, in one of the first flights under the mission.

The Indian embassy in Tel Aviv had urged those seeking to return to register their names in the mission’s database. The passengers were chosen on a first come, first served basis, with the Indian government bearing the cost of their return.

Happy to return home

Those who returned from Israel thanked New Delhi for evacuating them from the war-hit region.

Shubham Kumar, who studies in Israel, told Indian news agency PTI that she and other students were relieved when they saw the Indian government notification to register their names with the embassy in Israel.

“We are thankful to India … Most of the students were a little bit panicked,” she said.

Another evacuee Deepak told local media that while he was happy to be back home, he felt sad about the plight of fellow Indians still stuck in Israel.

“We heard sirens on Saturday. As the attack happened, we could hear the sound. Israeli authorities were instructing us [to take safety measures]. It was a continuous attack,” he said.

Updated: October 13, 2023, 10:33 AM