The family of Scotland’s First Minister have managed to escape from Gaza into Egypt as foreign nationals are allowed through the Rafah crossing.
Humza Yousaf’s in-laws Elizabeth and Maged El-Nakla travelled to the region to visit relatives, including the First Minister’s brother-in-law who is an A&E doctor.
In a statement, the FM said he was “grateful” to those who had assisted the pair in leaving Gaza, but added other members of the family, including wife Nadia’s brother, elderly gran and stepmother, remained there.
He said the previous four weeks had been a “living nightmare,” reiterating calls for an “immediate ceasefire”.
“We are very pleased to confirm that Nadia’s parents were able to leave Gaza through the Rafah Crossing this morning,” he said.
“We are grateful to all of those who have assisted our parents over the last few weeks, including the FCDO crisis team.
“These last four weeks have been a living nightmare for our family, we are so thankful for all of the messages of comfort and prayers that we have received from across the world, and indeed from across the political spectrum in Scotland and the UK.
“Although we feel a sense of deep personal relief, we are heartbroken at the continued suffering of the people of Gaza. We will continue to raise our voices to stop the killing and suffering of the innocent people of Gaza.
“We reiterate our calls for all sides to agree to an immediate ceasefire, the opening of a humanitarian corridor so that significant amounts of aid, including fuel, can flow through to a population that have suffered collective punishment for far too long, and for all hostages to be released.”
Yousaf added: “Families in Gaza and Israel are suffering after the loss of entirely innocent men, women and children. We pray for them all, and pray that the international community at last focuses on achieving a lasting peace in the region: one that recognises that the rights and lives of Palestinians and Israelis are equal.”
It comes as Israeli troops advance towards Gaza City with the Palestinian death toll rising above 9,000.
There were thought to be around 200 British citizens in Gaza with some confirmed to have been able to make it into Egypt.
Mrs El-Nakla is a retired nurse from Dundee and has struggled to remain in contact with her daughter during the conflict with frequent loss of communication channels.
Recently, the couple were reported to have been sharing a home in Deir al-Balah, south of the Gaza River – the line which Israeli Defence Forces have ordered Palestinians to move beyond, with dozens of extended family members who had fled Israeli airstrikes in northern Gaza.
Earlier this week, Yousaf said the family – the parents of his wife Nadia – had run out of fresh water and had resorted to drinking water obtained from the sea.
US and Arab mediators have intensified efforts to ease Israel’s siege of the Hamas-ruled enclave and called for at least a brief halt to the hostilities in order to aid civilians.
President Joe Biden suggested a humanitarian “pause” on Wednesday, as an apparent agreement among the US, Egypt, Israel and Qatar, which mediates with Hamas, allowed hundreds of Palestinians with foreign passports and dozens of wounded to leave Gaza for the first time. Dozens more left on Thursday.
On Wednesday, Israel claimed responsibility for an airstrike that struck a Gaza refugee camp killing dozens of people and injuring hundreds more.
The exact number of casualties is not clear; however, reports from one doctor within Gaza City claimed hundreds were killed and wounded in the attack.
The First Minister condemned the bombing.
“I am sorry to those innocent men, women and children in Jabalia Refugee Camp that the world could not protect you,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
“This blatant disregard for human life must be condemned unequivocally.
I am sorry to those innocent men, women and children in Jabalia Refugee Camp that the world could not protect you.— Humza Yousaf (@HumzaYousaf) October 31, 2023
This blatant disregard for human life must be condemned unequivocally.
Do not let any more children die. We need an immediate ceasefire, nothing less.#Jabalia pic.twitter.com/ujNdNlxE5f
“Do not let any more children die. We need an immediate ceasefire, nothing less.”
Three countries in the Middle East, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), have all issued statements shortly after the attack to condemn Israel and its leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, for attacking the camp.
As per the United Nations Relief Works Agency for Palestine, there are 116,011 refugees registered as living in the camp as of 2023.
That number, however, is expected to be higher as many of those who live there may not be registered with the UN agency.
Taking responsibility for the strike on the refugee camp, Israel Defence Forces (IDF) spokesperson, Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, told CNN a Hamas commander was the target, but that he was “hiding, as they do, behind civilians.”
He described the loss of civilian life at the camp as “the tragedy of war,” and reiterated the call for civilians to evacuate the north of the Strip.
Mr Hecht said the Hamas commander who was the target of the strike “killed many Israelis.”
“It’s a very complicated battle space,” Mr Hecht said of the area the IDF struck. “There could be infrastructure there, tunnels there. We’re looking into it and (will) give you more data as the hour moves ahead.”
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