British Palestinian families mourn the deaths of loved ones killed in Gaza

British Palestinians tell The Independent of the horror of war as they called for meeting with Rishi Sunak

Maira Butt
Monday 13 November 2023 21:28 GMT
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<p>British Palestinians who have had family killed by Israeli airstrikes held a press conference in London today </p>

British Palestinians who have had family killed by Israeli airstrikes held a press conference in London today

Lubaba Khalid has fond memories of spending hot summers in the sun with her cousins in Gaza. The 25-year-old would spend hours on the beach going on boat and camel rides and watching football with her loved ones.

But those memories have now been marred by death and destruction as many of those she shared happy times with have been killed in Israeli air strikes on the Gaza strip.

“One of our cousins, Umar, is still under the rubble,” she told The Independent.

“We don’t know where he is. He was in the house with his wife and kids when it was bombed. One was seven and one was five. They all died. We’ve lost multiple family members and some of them are still missing.”

Because of communications blackouts, Lubaba and her family often hear about their deaths through social media, with X, formerly known as Twitter being their most common source of information.

Someone who can relate to her unique horror is Omar Mofeed, a British-Palestinian accountant who lost 40 family members in the ongoing bombardment.

He read out the names of his deceased family members saying: “I will read the names because these are not numbers. Every British-Palestinian has lost someone.”

Ehab Al Sharief, Lubaba Khalid, Ibrahim Khadra, Hala Hanina, Omar Mofeed and Wafa Shamalakh all lost loved ones

Mr Mofeed still has a brother working at Shifa hospital in Gaza. He trained at Guys St Thomas in London before moving back to The Strip to become the only plastic and reconstructive surgeon based in the region.

He is surviving so far, yet dozens others have died.

“One family member, Fatima, was the first female judge in Gaza,” he told a conference conducted for the bereaved.

“She was practising for more than forty years. She was sleeping in her house with her husband and was 75 years old. Her husband was 77. They were sleeping. Their children and grandchildren were with them.”

The press conference was held by British Palestinian families on Monday in conjunction with the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians.

At the event, families read out a letter in which they called for a meeting with Rishi Sunak to: “express our concerns, similar to the meetings you have had with other British communities who have families in the region”.

Many family members called out the “double standards” and “hypocrisy” of the international community with many comparisons drawn with the “rightful” support for Ukraine which they said was absent for Palestinians.

“Why are we different?” they asked.

Ibrahim Khadra, a sports journalist based in the UK, recalled the terror of family members as they collected their loved ones in plastic bags.

Lubaba Khalid shared pictures from her visits to Gaza where all of her mother’s family lives including all her cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents

For some who travel between countries, it has been a close call. Hala Hanina, 30, a women’s rights activist and PhD researcher returned to the UK only two months ago to finish the final year of her Sociology and Geography programme at a UK university.

However, all of her immediate family are displaced in Gaza, while still others have been killed.

“My friend Maisara, was a Chevening scholar in the UK,” she told The Independent. “His wedding a couple of months ago was one of the most beautiful ones I’ve been to. You could feel the love between him and his wife. He was handsome, and wise.

“We went on a trip as scholars last year and we all sang songs and had a great time. Now, he’s dead.”

It took days to retrieve Maisara’s body. His brothers were killed in a second strike as they attempted to recover his body from underneath the rubble of his home.

Human Rights Watch’s UK Director, Yasmine Ahmed opened the conference by accusing Israel of war crimes, adding that the UK risked complicity in its support for the country.

Israel denies any breaches of international and human rights law, insisting that it has the “right to defend itself” in its military action to eradicate Hamas.

More than 11,000 Palestinians and 1,400 Israelis have been reportedly been killed since the Hamas raid on October 7.

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