British Palestinians ‘helpless’ as they lose communication with family in Gaza

British Palestinians have said they felt “helpless” as they lost communication with their families trapped in Gaza and accused the UK Government of “failing its citizens” by not securing their escape.

Israel has knocked out communications in the Gaza Strip in intensified attacks over the last 24 hours, largely cutting off the 2.3 million population from contact with each other and the outside world.

Mohammed Awad, an English teacher at a language school in Cambridge, had been sharing regular WhatsApp messages and phone calls with his family – but he lost contact with them on Friday and has not heard from them since.

“(In our last call) my sisters, nephews and nieces all expressed their hope for immediate ceasefire,” the 34-year-old, who moved to the UK in 2017, told the PA news agency.

“I’m speechless, helpless and outraged by this inhumane catastrophic tragedy.”

Mr Awad’s family are staying in Jabalia refugee camp in the north of the Gaza strip, where he was born and raised.

“My home town was turned into a war zone … it’s beyond my mind and belief what could happen to them,” he said.

Israel-Hamas conflict
Mohammed Awad’s family are in Jabalia in northern Gaza (Mohammed Awad)

“I can’t even imagine how they endured the terrors of war without water, food, electricity, fuel, internet or medical care.”

Mr Awad’s family in Gaza includes young children, such as his nieces and nephews, whom he said have been suffering “daily panic attacks” as they stay on the ground floor of a building with around 25 other family members.

“They lost any sense of life, safety or security,” he said.

“Children are trembling in terror by the massive blasts and explosions as well as bombs shaking the earth, the house.

“They leave the room for the toilet only … they are literally helpless, terrified and trapped in the house waiting for their unknown destiny.”

Mr Awad said the UK Government should call for an immediate ceasefire.

Mo El-Deeb, 30, has not heard from his father Talal El-Deeb, 66, or mother Naila El-Deeb since Wednesday.

The couple, who travelled to Gaza to visit family several weeks ago and have British citizenship, are currently waiting in Rafah at the Egyptian border.

UK Border Force teams are set up in Egypt to help, however, the Rafah border crossing has yet to be opened for people to leave.

Israel-Hamas conflict
Naila and Talal El-Deeb, whose son Mo has not heard from them since Wednesday (Mo El-Deeb/PA)

“(The Government) haven’t done anything to get my parents out, or any other British citizen (in Gaza) for that matter – the Rafah border, the only exit out of Gaza, is still sealed shut,” Mr El-Deeb told PA.

“They are like caged animals waiting to die.

“It’s been two and a half weeks and the British consulate’s advice has remained the same.

“My message to the UK Government is they have failed their citizens. They have failed British citizens in their efforts to get them out of of Gaza, they failed in their communications with Egypt.”

Mr El-Deeb called on the UK government to “intensify their efforts” to have the Rafah border opened, adding he feels there has been a “double standard” for British Israelis fleeing over British Palestinians.

“They allowed for British citizens in Israel to leave through evacuation flights, but nothing has been done for the people on the Palestinian side,” he said.

“For me, for anyone, for any simple-minded person observing this, this is a double standard.”

A British-Palestinian academic whose close family are in Gaza, who did not wish to share his name because of “anti-Palestinian sentiment”, was among around 100,000 who marched in London on Saturday demanding a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.

The Londoner said he lost contact with his family – which includes his brothers, sister and nephews including a three-month-old – on Friday as Israel ramped up its offensive and knocked out communications in the Gaza Strip.

Despite the large turnout in London, he said he does not believe action will be taken or the UK Government will call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

“The last thing I heard from my family was anticipation of good news of a ceasefire, then everyone went completely, totally offline,” he told PA.

“I’m trying not to think about it, because if I think about it I will go crazy – it’s unbearable to think about what could be happening there right now.

“There’s a lot of support here (in London) but it will be dismissed by this Government… it feels like all of this is futile.

“People there are dying, they will continue to die and they have been dying for three weeks.

“This is the third week in a row where there are thousands and tens of thousands of people by Downing Street – no-one is hearing them and no-one is acknowledging the calls for a ceasefire.”

When approached by PA, the Foreign Office did not share a statement in response to Mr El-Deeb’s comments but it has said it is keeping in close contact with British nationals in Gaza and is advising all those in the area to register their presence on its travel advice web page at:

Advice on the Foreign Office’s website states: “If you are a British national in Gaza who wants to enter Egypt, check the status of the Rafah crossing into Egypt before you travel.

“Movement to the Rafah crossing and beyond is at your own risk. You should only travel if you judge it is safe to do so.”