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A New Jersey pharmacist returned from Gaza after being stranded there for weeks. Now, she wants to go back.

New Jersey pharmacist returns from Gaza after being stranded
New Jersey pharmacist returns from Gaza after being stranded 02:01

PASSAIC COUNTY, N.J. -- A New Jersey woman who was stranded at a hospital in Gaza for nearly a month is safe and back home in the U.S. 

Ghada Abukuwaik, a pharmacist, left her six children and flew to Gaza with 18 other volunteers in April for what was supposed to be a two-week mission at European Hospital. 

"It was a dream for me to go to Gaza. I wanted to help people over there," she said. 

The days were grueling, but rewarding. 

"Lice everywhere. Hepatitis A everywhere," Abukuwaik explained. "I was happy when I was able to help people." 

"I felt proud of her, but I felt a little scared because I didn't want anything to happen," Abukuwaik's 15-year-old daughter Zena said. 

Stranded by escalations in Rafah

One week into the mission, escalations by Israeli troops in nearby Rafah led to border closures and left the medical volunteers stranded in Gaza. Their replacements were unable to enter from Egypt. 

One week before returning to the U.S., Abukuwaik spoke with CBS New York from the hospital as she sent letters to the U.S. State Department urging them to help. 

"We were not safe. Actually when we signed the paper before we left that we may lose our life and we accepted that," said Abukuwaik. 

After spending three weeks in Gaza, the volunteers were given a few hours notice that the U.S. Embassy would evacuate them. 

"I thank God that he gave me the opportunity to come back safe and to be with my family and my kids. And I thank all the leadership that they were able to get us back safe, but at the same time people over there, they are suffering," she added. 

Abukuwaik's family missed her, but she said her work is not done yet. She's already planning her next mission. 

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