TORONTO — A Canadian man who tried to organize an aid shipment to relatives stranded in a conflict-ridden area of Libya says he recently found out most of his family members had died during his fruitless efforts to send them food and water.
Ali Hamza of Mississauga, Ont., had flown to Turkey with his wife and children last month in a bid to mobilize relief efforts for the residents of Ganfouda, a militant-controlled neighbourhood in the city of Benghazi that has been besieged by Libyan army troops that answer to a powerful commander.
Amnesty International has raised the alarm over the situation in Ganfouda, saying residents had been trapped there for months with dwindling food and fuel supplies.
Hamza spent nearly a month in Turkey attempting to partner with an NGO to send in a delivery of food and water, but the precarious security situation kept the aid shipment on the ground.
Two weeks ago, Hamza says he got the devastating news that five of the six family members he was trying to help had died.
He says one brother and one sister died on Feb. 25 during a bombing attack in Ganfouda that he learned of later, adding they had been living on tree bark and rain water in the weeks before their deaths.
On Mar. 18, Hamza says his elderly mother and three remaining siblings boarded a bus in a bid to flee to a safer part of Benghazi, only to be ambushed on their way out. His mother, a brother and a sister all died, he said, adding only one sister survived and is being detained.
Hamza said the news came as a crushing end to an already upsetting trip.
“In the plane, maybe three times I cried very loud,” he said of the return journey from Turkey. “We lost family. We lost the grandmother of our children, we lost uncles and aunts.”
Hamza had called on the Canadian government to take a more active role in providing aid and support to Ganfouda and expressed disappointment at the lack of strong public statements from Ottawa on the plight of those stranded in the area.
Libya has been beset by violence and chaos since the ouster and death of longtime strongman Moammar Gadhafi in a 2011 civil war.