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UK politicians lack humanity, says son of doctor trapped in Gaza - The Guardian

Author: The Guardian

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/oct/28/uk-should-try-to-get-british-nationals-out-says-son-of-doctor-trapped-in-gaza

Image of UK politicians lack humanity, says son of doctor trapped in Gaza - The Guardian

On Friday evening, as Israeli air and ground forces ramped up their operations in the Gaza Strip and a communications blackout fell across the embattled territory, Salim Hammad received a text from the UK Foreign Office notifying him of a possible increase in attacks and violence.“What are we supposed to do with that information?” said Salim, a 34-year-old doctor in Oxford whose father, Abdel, is stuck at the Rafah border crossing.“You should be trying to get your British nationals out.That’s your job.”What was meant to be a three-day visit to Gaza City for Abdel, a transplant surgeon from Liverpool who arrived a day before the conflict erupted on 7 October with a transplant charity, has now stretched to three weeks.“They need the government to get them out, they’re literally at the border,” said Salim, adding that he has hit a brick wall in contacting the Foreign Office.“There’s no reason for them to still be there, other than the fact that the government hasn’t made it their priority.”Salim last spoke with his father at midday on Friday, before Israel knocked out the internet and communications, cutting off the territory from contact with the outside world.Abdel described the situation as “desperate”: water is contaminated, people queue for hours for bread and some attempted to break into the UN food stores.At night, he sleeps on the floor in a room with 12 others.Gaza: drone footage shows people lining up at water station – video“Its not fair the civilian population are paying the price for the actions of Hamas,” said Salim. “I find it incredible that the Labour party and the Conservative party can’t have the humanity to say that a ceasefire is needed.“These people are going to die,” he said.Israel’s military has been bombing Gaza for nearly three weeks, killing more than 7,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.Nearly 1.4 million of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have been internally displaced and face a humanitarian crisis as the power is off, clean water is scarce and hospitals cease to function without fuel.While reiterating support for Israel’s right to self-defence, the foreign secretary, James Cleverly, said on social media: “The UK’s top priority remains the safety of British nationals in Gaza and the region.”The UN general assembly overwhelmingly called for an immediate and sustainable humanitarian truce in Gaza.The non-binding vote passed with 120 votes in favour, while 45 countries, including the UK, abstained, and 14, including Israel and the US, voted against.Saturday morning was distressing for Ahmed Najar, who is still unable to contact his family in Jabalia, Gaza, where he was born.“I don’t know what to expect, I don’t know how they are now, I don’t know that they’re alive,” said Najar, 42, in London.“We are going through hell.”Before losing communication, Najar’s family described dire circumstances.They manually filter contaminated water to drink, he said, and charge their phones at nearby hospital generators. They described bombed-out neighbourhood streets demolished as if by earthquakes, and rubble smelling of blood and flesh.“They feel isolated, they feel lonely,” said Najar.“They feel that the whole world has turned against them when they have done nothing wrong to the world.”He described the UK government’s response as “disgusting”.“Our prime minister has gone to Israel to stand next to [his counterpart Benjamin] Netanyahu and he said to him: ‘I want you to win.’”Ipsos polls show more than 70% of Britons are concerned about the impact of the conflict on Palestinian and Israeli civilians, and are more likely to want the government to be a neutral mediator or not be involved at all.“I feel like the public doesn’t matter to the politicians, they don’t care about our opinion,” said Najar, adding that the Labour party had lost his vote, as it has many others’.The prime minister, Rishi Sunak, and the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, both support a US-backed idea for humanitarian “pauses” to allow aid to enter, civilians to flee and hostages seized by Hamas to be released.Contrary to both party lines, nearly a quarter of Labour MPs and more than 250 British lawyers have called for a ceasefire.“They certainly do not reflect what the people of the UK want,” Najar said.The British-Palestinian writer and lawyer Selma Dabbagh says reading and hearing news of the conflict from London feels as though she has a grate moving across her inner organs.“I think it’s unconscionable that neither [the Labour nor Conservative leaders] have asked for a ceasefire when the level of killing has been so indiscriminate,” said Dabbagh, whose father left Jaffa in 1948.On Saturday, Dabbagh planned to be among the thousands of demonstrators who turned out in central London to show their support for the Palestinians and demand an end to Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.A pro-Palestinian march in London on Saturday.Photograph: Guy Smallman/Getty Images“This country is a signatory to the Geneva conventions,” said Dabbagh, who is the head of strategy at the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians, which put the prime minister on notice last week.“It should be stepping up, rather than being a cheerleader and an enabler of such a grotesque assault on innocent civilians.”

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