The flight, originally scheduled to land at 12.20pm Irish time, landed at around 5.45pm. One young woman muttered “almost time, almost time” under her breath as airport staff provided families with constant updates.
Supporters with Palestinian flags, who were at Saturday’s protest in Dublin city, turned out to join the families in welcoming their loved ones home, as did the Palestinian ambassador to Ireland, Dr Jilan Wahba Abdalmajid.
Belfast-born Khalid El Estal, who has been fighting for his children Ali (4) and Sara (1) to be brought to Ireland since the war broke out on October 7.
His wife Ashwak Jendia was killed in an explosion that also injured the two children, but they recovered at a hospital in southern Gaza.
He ran to his children as they finally came through the arrival gate in Terminal 1 with their uncle Mohammed Jendia, a father at last given another chance to hug his son and daughter.
Fighting back tears, Mr El Estal said he is happy to be in Ireland and happy to have his kids back with him.
“I can’t describe it. It was a long wait, I had a lot of support from everyone. Finally we did it. We lost a lot, my wife, their mum, her mum,” he said.
“But it’s OK, we will be strong. I will take care of them and everything.
“These people, they are like my family now,” he said of those who supported him while he waited for his children.
“They will stay forever my family. Thank you, thank you.”
Asked what his plan was now that Ali and Sara are with him and can return home with him to Co Kildare, he said: “I don’t know where to go now. That’s OK, I have my children back.”
The family will now have a chance to celebrate Ali’s fifth birthday on November 22 with him and his sister safely back with their father, albeit tragically without Ashwak there by their side.
While there was joy for many arriving at Dublin Airport, it was a heartbreaking homecoming for Mazen Haia. The 19-year-old and his family are safely in Ireland now, but they were forced to leave his father behind.
At 19, in his second year of college in computer engineering at the Islamic University of Gaza, he is now responsible for his six younger siblings.
“It’s very difficult, I don’t know how my life will continue now. We left our father to die and my cousin.
“They bombed our university, they bombed schools, they bombed our houses. We were walking when we got out the IDF told us to get our of our houses, there were bodies where we were walking.
“We left everything, I only have some clothes. We don’t have any money. Now I’m responsible for all these kids. How can this happen?,” he said.
Mr Haia said he and his siblings are left without a father, an education, money or a place to stay. This is his first time back in Ireland since 2011 and he has nowhere to go.
“Communications now are very hard. We don’t know, any time now we could receive a message saying our father is dead. It is a disaster, we don’t know what to do.
“I came here just to be safe. If I sleep on the street, I don’t care, I just want to be safe. All that matters to me right now is that we are safe.
“Thank God that we are safe. We don’t know what will happen now, if they can come to Ireland. The Israeli authorities didn’t let their names on the list for the Rafah Crossing.
“Me, I’m the father now. I am the son and the father now,” he said.