Yousaf feared ‘revenge’ for family in Gaza after condemning Hamas

The former first minister's in-laws were trapped in the region for weeks during the start of the Hamas-Israel war.

Humza Yousaf has said he and his wife feared “revenge” when speaking out about their family being trapped in Gaza.

The former first minister said he wrestled with his decisions on public statements about returning his in-laws to Scotland.

His wife Nadia El-Nakla’s parents became trapped in the Palestinian enclave during the opening weeks of the Israel-Hamas war and Yousaf – who was first minister and SNP leader at the time – spoke publicly about their plight.

The Glasgow Pollok MSP said his family feared revenge by Hamas against his in-laws due to his condemnation of the militant group’s October 7 attack on Israel.

In a podcast discussion, Yousaf also spoke about his attempts to bring Scotland’s Jewish and Muslim communities together in the wake of the October 7 attack.

He appeared on an episode of A Muslim And A Jew Go There, hosted by Baroness Sayeeda Warsi and comedian David Baddiel.

Yousaf said his family members – who had travelled from Scotland to Gaza to visit relatives prior to the conflict – experienced the opening days of the war, seeing rockets being fired into Israel and the bombardment of Gaza.

At one point they were left “wandering the streets” as they had been told a neighbour’s house would be destroyed in an Israeli air strike and they had to flee their home.

For the first 24 hours, he said, he did not publicly discuss his family’s situation due to concerns about reprisals from Hamas – though there was “no doubt” he would condemn the group.

Yousaf said: “I had to speak to Nadia and get her understanding that the moment I condemn Hamas there is a possibility that Hamas are going to take reprisal in retaliation against her mother and father.

“Hamas – and this is the understatement of the century – are not good people.

“Hamas will take revenge where they need to take revenge.

“For a pretty high-profile Muslim to unequivocally condemn them and their attack, the way they would get their revenge could well be to take it out on my mother-in-law and father-in-law.”

In November, the couple returned safely to Scotland after being permitted to leave Gaza via the Rafah crossing, but some of their family remain there.

Yousaf also said he shared moment of grief during a service in a synagogue with Irene Cowan, whose son Bernard was killed in the October 7 attack.

He said he feared tension between Scotland’s Muslim and Jewish communities would rise due to the events in the Middle East.

The former SNP leader said he wanted to bring prominent Scottish imams and rabbis together.

While he was able to have them agree on a joint statement, he said there was reluctance for them to appear in photographs together.

Yousaf told the podcast: “It wasn’t because they had enmity towards each other, they said the backlash from our communities could be quite something.”

He praised the Church of Scotland’s “mediation” role on the issue and a number of imams and rabbis later took part in an iftar (breaking of the fast) event during Ramadan at Bute House.

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