A Los Angeles city employee trapped in Gaza for weeks was evacuated this week to Egypt, one of hundreds of people who were able to escape the violence and misery of the war zone for the first time in three weeks.
Sohail Biary, of Simi Valley, was visiting family in Gaza when war erupted following the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack against Israel. He had been there for nearly a month of violence and devastation.
“I am relieved to announce today that the employee is now safe in a neighboring country and out of the war zone,” Mayor Karen Bass said Thursday. “I personally want to thank Tom Perez and the Biden administration, Sen. Alex Padilla, and Congresswoman Julia Brownley for working with us to arrive at today’s result. We look forward to welcoming our colleague home.”
Biary, 53, is a district supervisor for the city’s General Services Department. Bass said she had been in regular contact with Biary’s son, who said his father traveled to his hometown of Gaza City before the war to visit his mother.
“He came here with nothing and started a life here,” Khalid Biary told the Ventura County Star of his father, adding that his father sought asylum in the U.S. 30 years ago and moved to Ventura County.
Biary’s was one of nearly 400 civilians trapped in Gaza who were able to escape the war zone by crossing the Rafa Border.
“It has been a source of tremendous turmoil and pain speaking with his son,” Bass said. “His father had gone to Northern Gaza to visit his mother, and when he was told to evacuate he evacuated to the south. He went to Rafa and then wasn’t able to get across the border.”
The evacuees are the first people to leave Gaza, other than four hostages released by Hamas and another rescued by Israeli forces. The U.S. State Department said American citizens were among those who left.
State Department officials said they expected more Americans and other foreign nationals to get out of Gaza in coming days. Talks were reportedly ongoing among Egypt, Israel and Qatar, which has been mediating with Hamas.
By midafternoon Wednesday, 335 foreign passport holders left Gaza through the Rafah crossing into Egypt, said Wael Abu Omar, a spokesman for the Palestinian Crossings Authority. Seventy-six Palestinian patients, along with their companions, have been evacuated for treatment in Egypt, Abu Omar said. Egypt has said it will not accept an influx of Palestinian refugees, fearing Israel will not allow them to return to Gaza after the war.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Source: NBC Los Angeles