For months, Dina Massoud worried about her children: whether they were getting enough food and water, or if they were even alive.

She would get infrequent messages from three of her children, who were in Gaza — the only place they have ever called home.

What You Need To Know

  • A Palestinian-American has spent months trying to get three of her children in Gaza the chance to join her in America

  • Dina Massoud's kids are 12, 15 and 16 years old

  • They made it to Staten Island early in 2024 and are in the process of acquiring green cards

Her children are 12-year-old Hanan, 15-year-old Jihan and 16-year-old Said.

NY1 has shared Massoud’s story since the war broke out between Israel and Hamas. Massoud lives on Staten Island, and recently became an American citizen.

She said she always wanted her children to come join her in the United States in order to get a better education.

In late 2023, she traveled to Egypt, where her children were able to cross out of Gaza at the time to meet her at the U.S. embassy there.

“We had to have our hands up in the air with the white cloth, not look [Israeli soldiers] in the eyes and look straight forward,” said 15-year-old Jihan as she sat in her mom’s living room on Staten Island. “It was a mission that we didn’t know if we would make it out alive or not, but in the walking process, we saw dead bodies.”

Their home, according to a video that Jihan’s uncle shot that Massoud showed NY1, is now a pile of rubble in Gaza. The family said they had already evacuated before the bombing.

As the war between Israel and Hamas has raged on for months, Hamas still holds more than 100 Israeli hostages. The Israeli Defense Forces have attacked Gaza to eliminate Hamas, killing nearly 30,000 civilians in the process.

“I have already seen war, so it wasn’t new to me,” Jihan said in response to a comment that she has seen a lot as a 15-year-old.

Massoud said she sees her children struggling, especially when they think about the family still in Gaza.

“The anxiety and the panic attacks and the guilt,” Massoud said. “It’s still there, because I still have family members there that I’m unable to bring.”

Massoud’s parents and siblings remain in Gaza. So does her ex-husband, the father of three of her children.

“This is the first time I have left my family, so I said my goodbyes with tears in my eyes,” Jihan said.

She said she doesn’t know if she’ll ever see them again. She paints what she remembers about home, only left with her memories and a bracelet she brought.

Life in the United States has been a relief, but still an adjustment. They’re all crammed into a one-bedroom home Massoud had been subletting. That means her kids are sleeping on the couches and the floor.

Massoud had to stop working her job at Macy’s to take care of her children, including a 2-year-old she gave birth to in America.

Family, friends and some local nonprofits are trying to help her find a new home for her and her four children.

Despite all the struggles they’re facing now, Massoud said she knows her children are safe — something she didn’t know just a few months ago.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct the year Massoud traveled to Egypt.