A Los Angeles city employee who was trapped in Gaza for weeks has been safely evacuated from the besieged territory, according to the mayor’s office.
“Our office has been working to get him to safety and I have been in regular contact with his son. 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 afternoon in a statement.
The city employee is Simi Valley resident Sohail Biary, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who was not authorized to speak publicly.
Hundreds of Palestinians with foreign passports have been allowed to leave Gaza since Wednesday after weeks of attention on their plight, according to the Associated Press.
The isolated Palestinian territory has faced a worsening humanitarian crisis amid brutal Israeli airstrikes. More than 9,000 people in Gaza have been killed, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. The war began on Oct. 7, ignited by Hamas’ devastating attacks inside Israel that killed more than 1,400.
Biary’s son, Khalid Biary, spoke to the Ventura County Star last week about his father’s situation, telling the paper that the 53-year-old man had traveled to his hometown of Gaza City to visit his parents before war broke out in the region. Biary works as a district supervisor for the city’s General Services Department and has four children, according to the Star.
“He came here with nothing and started a life here,” Khalid Biary told the Star of his father, saying the elder Biary had sought asylum in the U.S. 30 years ago and settled in Simi Valley. Khalid Biary did not immediately respond to an interview request from The Times.
With borders closed and his father trapped in an increasingly desperate situation, Khalid Biary had reached out to the U.S. State Department for help and was told to direct his father to the Egyptian border, according to the Star. Sohail Biary waited for hours at the Egyptian border with his American passport but was turned back three times, according to the Star.
“I can’t explain the feeling of not knowing whether my dad is alive or not,” Khalid Biary told the paper before his father’s evacuation, describing how his father was facing worsening bombings, constant power outages and difficulty finding food. This was Sohail Biary’s first visit to see his parents and other relatives in 15 years, according to KABC-TV.
In her statement Thursday, Bass thanked President Biden; the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs director, Tom Perez; California Sen. Alex Padilla; and Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village) for “working with us to arrive at today’s result.”
“We look forward to welcoming our colleague home,” Bass said.