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Canadian mother of 8-year-old girl fights to get her home from Gaza 6:26

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Stuck in Gaza 6:05

An eight-year-old girl from Brantford, Ont., is in Gaza, and her mother is trying, from a distance, to persuade the Canadian government to help escort her to safety.

Wesam Abuzaiter said her daughter Salma went to Gaza with her father, Hassan Abuzuiter, in June. She’s staying with her grandmother.

The Canadian government issued warnings for citizens to leave the war zone on July 8, and even helped Canadians get home. But Salma’s father, working in Gaza as a physician, does not want to leave because he is involved in treating wounded civilians, Abuzaiter said.

“He is a dad and he is a health-care professional. So he is in a very difficult situation,” Wesam Abuzaiter said on CBC Radio’s As It Happens on Monday.

She is a pharmacist at Brantford General Hospital. She said she deeply understands her husband’s conflict. But she worries for her daughter.

“I do worry a lot about her,” she said. “It’s a miracle that she’s still alive.”

'Life is valuable'

Wesam Abuzaiter has two other children, sons aged 12 and 10. She said the older one is more aware of the situation in Gaza, but she assures him Salma is fine and is coming home soon. 

“Why won’t your husband leave, and take Salma out of there and return home?” As It Happens guest host Laura Lynch asked her.

“He couldn’t. It’s easy to say that. But he couldn’t at all,” she said.

“He gave me many examples about kids that he was taking care of, and he gave them a second chance for living. You know, life is valuable, by all means. And these kids are innocent civilians.”

Wesam Abuzaiter has asked the Canadian government to register her brother, Salma’s uncle, and Salma’s name at the border crossing with Egypt to ensure their safe passage. She said the government has advised her instead to send her daughter on a UN bus to cross without a relative, she said.

She said she is unwilling to send her daughter without a family escort. 

Wesam Abuzaiter and her husband moved to Canada in 2009 from Qatar, where they'd been living previously. Both are Palestinian citizens as well as Canadian citizens, Abuzaiter said. Her husband does not currently work as a physician in Canada, but has worked on clinical research at McMaster University in Hamilton, she said.

"I came to Canada because it’s the land for human rights, for freedom," she told CBC Hamilton.