British citizens trapped under Israel’s ferocious bombing of Gaza have criticised the lack of support from their government which has failed to push for an evacuation or a ceasefire.
There are believed to be 200 Britons registered with the UK authorities in the besieged enclave, where food, water, fuel and medical supplies are fast running out.
Among them is Manchester resident Mohammed Ghalayini, who said Israeli airstrikes have killed 37 members of his extended family and forced him to be displaced four times.
He was visiting family in Gaza when Israel unleashed its air raids in retaliation for Hamas’s bloody 7 October attack on southern Israel.
Despite struggling to access food, water, and other supplies the 44-year-old said he has only received one communique from the Foreign Office: a single email 10 days ago.
“The British response in terms of supporting its citizens has been pitiful,” he told The Independent . “I think I had an email 10 days ago. I haven’t even had a text message. Others I’m in touch with, a friend said he had a phone call,” Mr Ghalayini said, speaking from the flat where he is sheltering with 15 members of his family.
The neighbourhood of Gaza City where his family is from “is almost completely destroyed”.
A building 50m away from where Mr Ghalayini is currently sheltering in the south of Gaza was bombed a few days ago and he is worried about strikes in the future.
“It is obvious that they are not making the noise to get us out because what is more important is their support for Israel,” he said. “If they really cared about their citizens… they would wield that influence but they aren’t.”
Another British dual national, who asked not to be identified for security reasons, said his family had been given no support or help with evacuation apart from “relaying information”.
“We expected that to protect their citizens they’d apply proper pressure on Israel but we obviously don’t count because we’re Palestinian,” he added.
The Independent has reached out to the Foreign Office for comment.
Israel imposed a crippling siege on Gaza in retaliation for Hamas’s attack, when militants stormed through villages and towns, killing hundreds of people and taking at least 224 people, including two Britons, hostage.
The UK, the US and other Western allies were quick to throw their full support behind Israel’s military response.
The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says at least 7,000 people, including more than 2,700 children, have been killed in the onslaught.
The United Nations, who have lost 57 of their staffers in the bombing, have said unless there is a humanitarian truce, supplies are so low they will have to halt their aid support.
Trapped in that are British citizens who have been unable to evacuate as the Rafah crossing with Egypt – which has been bombed by Israel – remains closed to passenger traffic and is only allowing a drip-feed of aid.
On Thursday Rishi Sunak said the UK has sent Border Force agents to Egypt on a “mercy mission” to bring home UK citizens caught up in the fighting. But he admitted London cannot do anything until the crossing to Gaza opens.
Mr Ghalayini said in the meantime his family was struggling to survive. They only receive municipal water – which is not suitable for drinking – once every three days, and then need dwindling generator fuel to pump the water up the building.
He said he feared the drinking water supply – which is delivered now by donkey carts – would soon run out too. He has lost 37 relatives on both sides of his family, including 20 members of his father’s family just five days ago.
“There is no one in Gaza who doesn’t know someone who hasn’t been killed,” he added.
Both Mr Ghalayini and the other British citizen The Independent spoke to said the UK’s lack of effort to evacuate its civilians and apparent lack of interest in a proper ceasefire made London “complicit” in the bloodshed.
“I am sad, I am against the killing of Israeli civilians, I will shout that from the rooftops,” Mr Ghalayini said. “But it is so hard to watch what is going on, knowing there are those who have influence, who could be changing this for the better for us and for the better for Israelis,” he added.
The Independent reached out to the Israeli military to ask whether it was committed to assisting British citizens in Gaza who need to evacuate. We have yet to receive a reply.
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