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Russian refugees from Gaza land in Moscow

The plane with the second group of Russian evacuees from Gaza has landed at Moscow Domodedovo Airport. They were picked up in the Jordanian capital, Amman, by a Russian emergencies plane.

For some it’s a reunion, for others a safe homecoming, but for all fleeing Gaza and arriving here safely in Russia is a relief.

The situation in Gaza has settled down now. But people are afraid that it could worsen again at any moment, refugees say.

Around 30 Russian and former Soviet Union citizens decided to leave Gaza on Monday as part of the second evacuation organised by the Russian embassy, although originally the number stood at 160.

On Monday evening, 37 people arrived in the Jordanian capital. The plane which has landed at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport had 22 people onboard, 8 of them children. It has been reported that there are 15 Russian citizens, 4 Belarusian nationals, and 3 citizens of Kazakhstan among the refugees. These are mostly Russian women married to Palestinians, travelling with children.

The reason not as many people have flown to Moscow was that 13 Ukrainian nationals will be flying directly from Amman to Ukraine's capital Kiev and one Russian family of five decided to stay in Jordan with the family members they have there.

But some even had to leave close family behind.

“I have only one daughter with me here my wife and my other daughters are still in Gaza because they don’t have exit permits, and if my Russian wife leaves Gaza and comes here she wouldn’t be able to return to Gaza again and this is because she violated the Israeli law of registration,” one of the refugees said.

The evacuation is being called a success by the Russian Foreign Ministry. They say this is thanks to the Russian mission in Ramallah and also the Russian Embassies in Tel Aviv and Amman as well as thanks to Jordanian and Israeli authorities.

“Let me tell you something. Ordinary people there don’t have a chance to leave Gaza. We managed to do so only because we had Russian passports. It also became possible because the Russian Federation helped us to leave. And President Putin himself pressed the Israeli authorities to let our buses go through the Israeli territories,” another person who came from Gaza said.

Now that 22 people landed safely at Moscow Domodedovo Airport after a long and difficult journey from Gaza, many will stay in Moscow, but others will have to travel for several more hours or even days before they can say they are home.

For the moment, Russian representatives have only made suggestions about why some of those 160 who earlier had decided to leave the country had a change of heart. 

“For now I have no information about their motives. After this second phase of evacuation is over we will contact the families who were on the list to clear up what made them stay. Probably some decided at the last moment to stay for personal reasons. Some hesitate to leave as the situation in Gaza has been relatively calm over the last few days – so maybe some hope that it is ameliorating,” commented Russian envoy to the Palestinian Autonomy Aleksey Pogodin.

Apart from this, some more complicated reasons are involved, noted Mr Pogodin.

“Another reason, as far as I know, is that the majority of Russian citizens do not have Palestinian ID cards. The problem is that the Palestinian Autonomy cannot issue these cards without the permission of the Israeli side. And from the beginning of the intifada seven years ago there have been no contacts between the Palestinian and Israeli authorities. So those citizens who do not have ID cards risk not to be allowed to Gaza afterwards. So we are working with the Israeli authorities over this issue trying to find a solution to the problem,” he said.

One of the refugees that Russia Today spoke to, confirmed some of the reasons mentioned by Aleksey Pogodin.

“Many did not obtain departure permits from the Israeli officials. But they considered that since it is quiet in Gaza, then they can stay there. Many do not possess the documents which can enable them to come back. Many have well-paying jobs there and they decided to stay,” Nazar Aliyan, refugee, explained.

Meanwhile, there are still more people wanting to leave the volatile area. Russian diplomats have said that there are 124 of them on the list and that the third round of evacuation is likely to take place.

The situation in Gaza has stabilised since Hamas took over some month ago. But at the same time there are concerns of the international community that the isolation of Hamas could lead to unemployment and thus further destabilise the situation.