Palestinians, Jordanians cooperate to get citizens out of Ukraine

Amman is waiving COVID-19 testing for returnees of both nations.

 Refugees brave the cold in a frozen field after they fled from Ukraine because of the Russian invasion at the border checkpoint in Medyka, Poland, March 1, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/KAI PFAFFENBACH)
Refugees brave the cold in a frozen field after they fled from Ukraine because of the Russian invasion at the border checkpoint in Medyka, Poland, March 1, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/KAI PFAFFENBACH)

Ambassadors from the Palestinian Authority and Jordan, as well as their foreign ministries, have been working together nonstop since the Russian invasion of Ukraine to help their citizens escape the war-torn country.

Ahmad Deek, the director-general of the Palestinian foreign affairs ministry, told The Media Line that Jordan and the Palestinians have been closely coordinating and working together around-the-clock on all fronts, most importantly on the need to help evacuate their compatriots from the line of fire in Ukraine.

“Jordan has made things easier for Palestinians to reach Palestine via [Amman’s] Queen Alia Airport with a waiver of health-related restrictions as well as joint use of public transport on the borders,” Deek said, adding that much of the cooperation is taking place between Jordanian and Palestinian ambassadors in Ukraine and in neighboring countries.

Muath Rajab, a medical student from Gaza in his fifth year of studies who lives in Kharkiv, says he is stranded.

“The Russian army is 20 kilometers away. Movement within the city is difficult and so is leaving it. I was told to stay put and not to go anywhere at this stage,” he said.

 Refugees brave the cold in a frozen field after they fled from Ukraine because of the Russian invasion at the border checkpoint in Medyka, Poland, March 1, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/KAI PFAFFENBACH) Refugees brave the cold in a frozen field after they fled from Ukraine because of the Russian invasion at the border checkpoint in Medyka, Poland, March 1, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/KAI PFAFFENBACH)

Rajab says he wishes that he had already completed his medical training so he could help treat the wounded.

Hamad Nabeeh, another medical student from Gaza, lives in a small farming village. Palestinians have had a hard time because the banking system is not working and he has decided to go to Poland, which has agreed to provide foreign students with 15-day visas. He complains of price gouging in Ukraine.

“The bus ride that used to cost $15 is now $150 and in some cases $300,” he said.

The coordination is also taking place in Poland and Romania.

Hashem Dajani, the Palestinian envoy to Ukraine, said the best advice now is for everyone to stay put, which is “the safest decision that can be made at this time.” However, for those who are already on the road, Dajani noted that there are eight bus routes to Poland and one pedestrian terminal, at the Medyka crossing point.

The Palestinian ambassador to Poland, Mahmoud Khalifa, and his staff have been on high alert to support anyone coming out of Ukraine. Others have chosen to travel to neighboring Romania.

The Palestinian ambassador to Jordan, Atallah Khairi, thanked King Abdullah for his support for the repatriation of Palestinians. “His Majesty has directed that Palestinian returnees be treated exactly as Jordanians,” he said.

Khairi also thanked Royal Jordanian Airlines, but it was not clear whether travel via the national carrier was made available for free. “This is not the first time that His Majesty has made such gracious gifts; he made a similar gesture at the outbreak of the coronavirus,” Khairi said.

Haitham Abu al-Foul, spokesman for the Jordanian Foreign Ministry, told The Media Line that Jordanian and Palestinian teams worked together to help rescue students stuck in Ukraine.

“Jordan always provides support to our Palestinian brothers, and in Ukraine we took a number of steps including making it easier to enter Jordan for families on their way to Palestine and also easing the COVID restrictions in the same way we are doing for Jordanians so they don’t need to apply online and undergo PCR testing,” he said. “We also cooperated with various other Arabs.”

The Arab League has taken a neutral position on the Russo-Ukrainian War. An emergency meeting ended with a statement expressing “concern” regarding the “events” in Ukraine and stressing the importance of “continued coordination and coordination” to help Arab communities there.

Not everyone wishing to leave will be able to get out alive. Ahmad Khalileh, a Palestinian refugee from Syria in his 50s, died Tuesday when he fell from his high-rise building in Kharkiv, Deek said. Palestinian officials are having a hard time recovering his body due to the siege and the curfew in the city, the ambassador said.