After what his daughter is calling a "nightmare journey" across the besieged Gaza Strip, a 73-year-old London, Ont., man is recovering in a Cairo hotel while he and his family try to arrange a flight home to Canada.
Akram Al-Sabbagh, 73, was trapped in northern Gaza when war broke out between Hamas and Israel after the Oct. 7 attacks by the militant group.
Samah Al-Sabbagh spoke to CBC News on Monday, and said her father reached the Rafa border crossing with Egypt on Friday night after a harrowing trip out of northern Gaza and south to the border.
He waited two nights for the border to reopen to Canadians who had been approved to enter Egypt, and was allowed through on Sunday.
London, Ont., resident Samah Al-Sabbagh says she struggled to stay in touch with her father as he made the journey to the Rafa crossing, at times travelling on foot amid shooting and aerial bombing. (Isha Bhargava/CBC)
"It's such a relief that he's now made it to Cairo," she told CBC News. "He just needs some time to rest and we will hopefully get him back home as soon as he can."
Akram Al-Sabbagh had been trying to escape northern Gaza as Israeli forces moved in on the ground and an aerial bombardment continued.
Akram, a Canadian citizen for over 30 years, was visiting family in Gaza.
While he waited three days before he was allowed to cross, Samah kept in touch with her father via cellphone, but the service was spotty. She spent hours corresponding with other Canadians who were making the same trip. When she couldn't connect with her father, others passed along updates to her through their relatives on the ground.
After crossing into Egypt on Sunday morning local time, Akram had a five-hour wait aboard a bus that could not depart for Cairo until others making the same trip were allowed through.
"It was a very frustrating weekend," said Samah.
"It was a nightmare journey for him" to the Cairo hotel, said Samah. "He had to walk for like five to six kilometres on foot with his hands up, with shootings taking place and missiles shot toward them. I couldn't believe it. I was in tears when he was telling me what happened for him to get from the north to the south."
The war began on Oct. 7 when Hamas militants stormed into Israel, killing an estimated 1,200 people and taking roughly 240 others back into Gaza as hostages. Israel has responded with daily air and land strikes, and the Hamas-run Health Ministry says casualties in the territory have topped 11,000.
People in Gaza were told by Israel to seek safety by leaving the northern part of the territory, but it was a difficult, dangerous journey across the small, warn-torn enclave between Israel and the Mediterranean Sea.
The Canadian Embassy in Egypt has helped assist those who crossed, with travel to Cairo as well as food and accommodation, until they could arrange going elsewhere.
The Egyptian government is allowing people who cross the Rafah border to stay in the country for up to 72 hours.
Samah said the next challenge for her father will be booking a flight home to Canada. Akram was already ticketed to travel next week and is trying to change that to an earlier flight.
However, with more than 200 other Canadians having recently made the same trip out of Gaza and into Egypt, she's expecting bookings to be difficult.
"We're happy that he made it," she said. "He's going to need a lot of counselling after what he saw there."