British teacher trapped in Gaza urges government to act before it is ‘too late’

Over 200 Britons remained stranded at the Rafah crossing as Egypt opened its borders to allow some foreign nationals and injured through

Maira Butt,Andy Gregory
Wednesday 01 November 2023 23:04 GMT
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Brit in Gaza describes desperate scene at Rafah crossing

A British citizen stranded in Gaza has urged the government to do more to help those trapped there to escape via the Rafah crossing before it is “too late”.

The border between Egypt and Gaza opened for some foreign nationals and severely injured Palestinians after weeks of negotiations on Wednesday, but just two of the 200 Britons stuck inside the besieged enclave were among them.

Schoolteacher Zaynab Wandawi, 29, from Manchester, is among those stranded and has urged the government to “not delay” in helping, in a social media post shared by her family.

“The longer they are left there, the higher the likelihood they will not survive, therefore Zaynab is asking for her government to please get them out as soon as possible,” her mother Lalah Ali Faten said.

“They cannot wait for a lull in the fighting as this may be too late. They need to take action on behalf of their citizens immediately and facilitate the opening of the Rafah border so they can leave. If the British government fails to take action they will be held accountable.”

Zaynab Wandawi, 29, urged the British government to act to allow their citizens to cross

Ms Wandawi also shared that water supplies were running out and food was “limited”.

Ms Ali Faten was upset as she recalled how Ms Wandawi was lovingly referred to as “princess” by her family and loved ones. “To her brothers, she’s the most beloved, she has a special place in everyone’s heart.

“It’s a living nightmare. Every single day I check the messages to see if they’ve made it through the night. The signal comes and goes, sometimes the messages are only one tick and it sends you into a spiral of worry,” she said. “You’re thinking ‘why is it?’ You’re in that state of mind until you see the two ticks.”

Some foreign nationals were allowed through this morning, while many Palestinians waited

Zaynab Wandawi, a British national born in Salford, Manchester, was turned away at the border crossing into Egypt (Lalah Ali-Faten/PA)

According to the Foreign Office, the first British nationals have now left Gaza via the Rafah border crossing into Egypt.

A spokesperson said: “We have been working at every level of government to ensure the Rafah crossing could open and allow all British nationals to leave Gaza.

“The first British nationals have now crossed into Egypt where UK teams are providing them with assistance.

“We continue to work with Egyptian and Israeli authorities to ensure this mechanism to allow British nationals to leave continues unhindered for as long as necessary, whilst at the same time calling for sustained humanitarian assistance into Gaza.”

UK Foreign Minister James Cleverly said: “UK teams are ready to assist British nationals as soon as they are able to leave. It’s vital that lifesaving humanitarian aid can enter Gaza as quickly as possible.”

Ambulances transporting severely injured Palestinians to Egypt through Rafah crossing

Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf has been documenting the situation of his mother and father-in-law who remain trapped with dwindling supplies. A spokesperson for Mr Yousaf said: “We welcome that the Rafah crossing looks set to be opened for a number of foreign nationals.

“This is obviously a developing situation, but our understanding at this stage is that UK nationals are not at present included in this initial list of countries whose nationals can cross.

“The first minister has been in contact with the Foreign Secretary this morning. We continue to liaise with the UK government and urge them to work with the Egyptian authorities so that all UK nationals can urgently leave Gaza as quickly as possible.

"The first minister’s wife, Nadia, spoke to her mother this morning. The family remains trapped in Gaza, without clean drinking water, and rapidly diminishing supplies.”

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