‘Battle of Gaza’ Separates Arizona Muslim Family
Evacuation of Hegazy Wife and Children Still ‘Pending’ After 50-days
By Aishah Schwartz
WASHINGTON, DC (Aug. 9, 2007) Chandler, Arizona residents and U.S. citizens of Palestinian descent, Dr. Mohamed Hegazy (45), and his wife, Sohair (36), waited a long 15-years to be reunited with their families. In the interim, Hegazy lost both his parents, and his wife’s father passed away. Then, on May 29, 2007, after anxiously waiting well over seven months from the time Hegazy planned his family’s vacation, he and his wife, daughters Somaya (19), Asma (18), Israa (15), and sons, Sohaib (14), and Mos’ab (11), boarded a plane for Gaza. A journey meant to re-unite a family, would ultimately separate them indefinitely.
On June 7, 2007, one year after the Fatah-Hamas conflict erupted in Palestine, sparked by the kidnapping of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier Gilad Shalit, a new battle ignited resulting in the control of Gaza by Hamas. In the embattled days that followed, reports estimated that over 550 people were wounded and at least 118 killed. It has also been reported that approximately, 6,000 Palestinians fled across the Egyptian border.
Hegazy, naturally, became alarmed not only for his immediate family, but for those members of his family living in Gaza, as well.
Just two weeks into their long-awaited reunion, Hegazy called the US Consulate in Jerusalem to inquire about evacuation of his family. A week later Hegazy received a call advising that he had been approved for evacuation the next morning. Inquiring about his family, Hegazy was told arrangements for them would be made shortly.
Hegazy, at an obvious cross-road, was torn between leaving his family behind and staying with them. If he remained in Gaza, the family’s established home and financial security back in the U.S. would surely be jeopardized. It was decided that Hegazy would return - he could only hope and pray that approval for his family’s evacuation would be imminent.
On arrival at the Consulate on June 21, Hegazy was elated to see the names of his wife and children on the evacuation list and asked if he could call them. The initial reply was “yes”, but on a second review of the list, the Consulate representative stated that the status of the Hegazy family was pending; no arrangements for them to evacuate had been made.
A New Battle Begins
Since June 21, Hegazy has been fighting an up-hill battle to get his family home. Despite constant contact with American Citizen Services at the U.S. Consulate General both in Jerusalem and Washington, D.C., the only news Hegazy has, is that the status of his family’s exodus remains ‘pending approval’.
“My son, Mosab who is in the 6th grade, has already missed the first day of school. Two of my children will miss the first day of high school classes on August 8, and two of my daughters will miss the start of classes at Arizona State University if they are not here by August 13, 2007. I am at a loss as to what else I can to do help my family,” Hegazy stated.
In desperation, Hegazy wrote a letter to Arizona Senator John McCain-(R) last week, in which he stated, “We are a separated family with all the emotional stress that comes with it. My family is worried there about their future and about me here, and I am worried about their safety, security, health, well being, education, and future.” Sadly, the only news subsequently coming from Sen. McCain’s office is that his plea for help has been forwarded to the U.S. Consulate’s office.
This week Hegazy brought his case to the attention of MAS Freedom (MASF), the civic and human rights advocacy entity of the Muslim American Society (MAS). MASF Executive Director, Mahdi Bray has followed-up with Senator McCain’s office, requesting that immediate assistance be provided to the Hegazy family.
“These are American citizens and our government has a responsibility to do everything they can to expedite their safe return,” stated MAS Freedom’s Executive Director, Mahdi Bray.
Hegazy stated in an interview with ABCNews 15 in Chandler, “Someone in our government decided that no one will leave Gaza.”
“We, at MAS Freedom, cannot stand by and watch as the lives of hard-working, honest, law-abiding Muslim-American citizens are needlessly jeopardized because someone can’t pick up the phone and approve their evacuation. We will persist in the pursuit of approval for the evacuation of the Hegazy family until we prevail,” asserted Bray.
In the meantime it has been reported that Hamas leader Osama al-Mzeini, has denied Israeli media reports of new Israeli offers to release more terrorists in return for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. “The Hamas movement is still sticking to its conditions to free Shalit. We are not willing to make any more concessions. Instead we may raise the ceiling of our demands,” said Al-Mzeini.