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Gaza Greets ‘canadians’ from Sinai As They Are Reunited with Families

December 14, 1989
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

This is a town preparing to repatriate families that a peace treaty has divided but will soon reunite.

They include about 5,000 Palestinians who lived in Israeli-administered Sinai and suddenly found themselves separated from relatives in the Gaza Strip when Israel returned the territory to Egypt under their 1979 peace treaty.

Israelis who had settled in Sinai were promptly relocated. The Palestinians found themselves in Canada Camp, a refugee center just south of Rafah.

Originally established by the United Nations but now under Egyptian administration, the refugee center is named in honor of Canadian contributions to the U.N. peacekeeping forces that aided Israel’s disengagement from Sinai.

The residents have been known locally as “Canadians.” But not much longer. Israel is determined to honor its 1979 treaty commitment to take them back, despite fierce protests from Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip.

Land has been allocated to build homes in the Tel Sultan neighborhood, on the Israeli side of Rafah, which the international boundary divides.

About 10 heads of large Palestinian families have crossed the border so far to inspect the sites. When the homes are built, the families will follow.

As they cross over from Sinai, the Palestinians are greeted warmly by relatives waiting for them outside the civil administration office in Gaza.


Jasser Nawajha, 35, crossed the line Wednesday and was embraced by his elderly father. “I haven’t seen him in five years,” Jasser said through tears.

The Nawajha family has been shunted to and fro by wars for more than 40 years.

At the end of Israel’s War for Independence in 1949, they fled the village of Asdoud, which later became the Jewish town of Ashdod. They settled in Rafah, at the southern end of the Gaza Strip, which was then under Egyptian control.

The Israelis took control of the Gaza Strip and Sinai in 1967. In 1973, the family was encouraged to move to Canada Camp.

Now they will move again — they hope, for the last time.

Generally, the Palestinians prefer the Gaza Strip, where jobs are more plentiful and conditions are better, despite the intifada.

In any event, they have little choice, because the Egyptians are insisting they leave. One Palestinian who said he could not find a foster family to sponsor him on the Israeli side was threatened with deportation to Sudan or Ethiopia.

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