Bosnian, Palestinian Gaza evacuees arrive in Bosnia

Palestinians holding Bosnian citizenship and their relatives arrive at Sarajevo after having been evacuated to Egypt from Gaza

By Daria Sito-Sucic

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - The first group of 26 Bosnians and their Palestinian relatives who had been stuck in Gaza arrived in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo on Monday, after they were evacuated to Egypt last week following weeks of waiting.

After undergoing thorough medical check-ups at the Sarajevo airport, the evacuees reunited with their families and friends who were anxiously waiting for them. Those without relatives in Bosnia will be accommodated in a refugee center, officials said.

Another group of 11 Gaza evacuees was set to arrive later on Monday, Foreign Minister Elmedin Konakovic told reporters.

"I have been in the Gaza Strip for 40 days of war," said Khaled Mosleh, a Palestinian with Bosnian residence who went to Gaza to visit a sick mother and got stuck there. Mosleh graduated from the Sarajevo medical school and lives in Bosnia with a Bosnian wife and five children.

"The situation is very difficult," he said of life in Gaza. "When you think that you will get killed two, three times a day, it is inconceivable. The humanitarian situation is non-existent, there is a smell of death at the streets of Gaza, the death is everywhere."

His sons Halid, 29, and Salahudin, 20, could not hide their tears when they hugged their father.

"The last month has been like a hell," Halid told Reuters, explaining they had received only a short text message proving their father was alive.

Imad Sehada, a Gaza-born resident of Bosnia, was waiting for his cousins to arrive. His whole family is still in northern Gaza and it was difficult for them to reach the Rafah border crossing with Egypt in the south, he said.

Bosnians are sympathetic to the plight of Gaza residents, after enduring a devastating war in the 1990s in which about 100,000 people were killed and 2 million resettled, and with Sarajevo having been under the longest siege in modern history.

Sumeja Hadzic-Jusufovic, draped in the Palestinian flag, came to the airport with a basket of candies packed by her children for the Gaza children evacuees.

"I was compelled to come," she said.

While happy to reunite with his Bosnian family, Mosleh said his heart was bleeding for his Gaza family. "In a way, a man does not know whether he is happy or sad," he said.

(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Bill Berkrot)