A divorced Palestinian man accused of illegally moving his three young children from their Kansas home to the Gaza Strip insists they are safe.
However, the Overland Park mother of the children is keeping a close eye on the Middle East ceasefire.
"It's very difficult not having my kids here. It's difficult putting up all the Christmas stuff and their stockings and talking to them over the phone with all they're going through in Gaza right now," Bethany Gonzales said.
Ahmed Abuhamda was charged in Kansas with aggravated interference with parental custody after he took his children, 14-year-old Jehad, 11-year-old Edhem and 9-year-old Jannah, overseas earlier this year.
Gonzales agreed to let her ex-husband take the children to his sister's wedding. But they never returned, and now the parents are locked in an international custody battle.
"I've been worried sick the last week about my kids. They just need to be back here in the states and that's it," she said.
The children's father told The Associated Press in an interview that while he believes the family is in no real danger, as a Muslim he has taught his children that everybody has to die one day.
Jannah Abuhamda told AP in a phone call from Gaza that she can hear the barrage of bombings as she plays with her Barbie dolls in her father's home.
Gonzales said she has been able to keep in contact with her children through phone calls but is still concerned about their safety.
"They're doing OK. They don't seem very distraught, just annoyed they aren't going out as much. They haven't gone to school since last Wednesday. They're just pretty much locked up at home," she said.
Gonzales has a baby boy at home with her new husband, and he is one of the things that has kept her going.
"I struggled with whether to put up the stockings. I've got to keep strong and focused because of the baby," she said.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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