Four Indian tailors working in Gaza for the last two years have been evacuated unharmed with the help of the Representative Office of India in Ramallah, a top United Nations official said.
The four, Abdur Rehman from Lucknow, Anwar Hussein belonging to Mumbai, Kamil hailing from Badam Ganj and Rashid Ahmed of Bareli were working for a Palestinian businessman.
They left the strip on Sunday, one of the bloodiest day in the 13 days of conflict that saw 97 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers dead in one of the fiercest attack launched by the Israel Defence Forces in recent years. They had moved to Gaza two years ago from Qatar.
The ROI was in constant touch with them since the beginning of Israeli offensive and coordinated their evacuation efforts with the UN access coordination office in Gaza.
They were received at the Erez crossing by the staff of the ROI, who helped them escape to Jordan through the Allenby crossing. The tailors would be leaving for India from Amman on Monday.
Pushkar Sharma, an Indian-American representative of the UN access coordination office in Gaza, said that the Indians, along with a few other foreign nationals, crossed over through the Erez crossing around noon before the two-hour humanitarian ceasefire brokered by the Red Cross began.
Some more Indians, married to Palestinians or working at Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charities, have decided not to leave the coastal Strip because of personal or moral reasons.
"The Indian mission in Palestine has been constantly in touch with us and extended all help which gives us a lot of strength", an Indian woman from Vishakhapatnam, married to a Palestinian and living in Khan Younis town of Gaza with her six children, told PTI.
The thought of leaving my husband and his family alone is scary and unthinkable. I pray that all this will end soon," she added.
Another Indian woman from Kashmir, also married to a Palestinian, said she is afraid that she "may not be able to come back soon" if she leaves the territory now. Her daughter, who speaks and understands Hindi a bit, said that they "live in constant fear and mostly sleep during the day and stay awake at nights amid constant sound of bombardment being carried by Israeli jets."
"The house right behind ours was totally destroyed in an Israeli attack a few days ago and since then we are all completely shaken and live in mortal fear."
"My young siblings are in trauma but we are all sticking together," she said.
Nuns serving with the Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charities have a moral dilemma with the thoughts of evacuating. "We are very uncomfortable with the thought of leaving all these handicapped children and old age people we work with in the middle of a crisis. We are staying," an Indian sister at the charity said.
At least 435 Gazans have died and around 2,500 injured in the recent flare up, with some 61,000 displaced who have taken shelter in 49 UN Relief and Works Agency centres in the coastal Strip.
Image: A medic helps a Palestinian in the Shejaia neighbourhood, which was heavily shelled by Israel during fighting, in Gaza City. Photograph: Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters