Six Palestinians were among the 50 people killed in attacks on two mosques in New Zealand on Friday. Six other Palestinians were wounded, said an announcement from the Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Ministry. Some of the victims had been living in New Zealand for years and a number of them had become citizens.
One of those killed was Atta Mohammed Elayyan, 33, the father of a two-year-old girl, Aya. He founded a high-tech company in New Zealand and was also the goalkeeper for New Zealand’s national men’s futsal team. Many of his relatives live in Abu Dis, just east of Jerusalem, and in Jordan. Elayyan’s cousin, Hamad, told Haaretz that Elayyan’s father left Abu Dis for Jordan decades ago and after that moved to Kuwait, where Atta was born. The family left for New Zealand in 1994 and has lived there since.
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Elayyan’s father, Mohammed, who was one of the founders of the mosque in Christchurch, was seriously wounded in the attack and is still hospitalized. “We thought they were living in the farthest place from such events and suddenly it all disintegrates,” said his cousin. “We can only hope that such painful incidents will not repeat themselves and the hatred and racism will disappear.”
The Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Ministry said three of the Palestinians killed, Abed al-Fattah Qassem Duqqa, Ali al-Madani and Kamel Darwish, were Jordanian citizens. The other two Palestinians killed were Amjad Hmeid, a doctor who has been living in New Zealand for 23 years, and Usama Abu Kweik, from a Palestinian family originally from Gaza.
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Sabri Daraghmeh, a Jordanian citizen, said his four-year-old niece was severely injured in the attack and is fighting for her life. Daraghmeh said by phone from Jordan on Saturday that the girl, Elin, remains “in the danger zone” and that her father, Waseem – Sabri’s brother – is in stable condition. Daraghmeh says the 33-year-old Waseem moved to New Zealand five years ago and had described it as the “safest place one could ever live in.”
The Daraghmehs are of Palestinian origin but have Jordanian citizenship, like several others listed as Jordanian nationals among those killed and wounded in the mosque attacks. The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said some Palestinians killed and wounded could also have been counted as citizens by Jordan or other countries.
New Zealand is considered a relatively new destination for Palestinian emigrants and refugees, said a PA official. Many moved there in the second wave of Palestinian migration, after the 1975-90 civil war in Lebanon and the 1991 first Gulf War, as well as in the last decade because of the civil war in Syria and harsh situation in the Gaza Strip.