British relatives of Israeli hostages in Gaza say they have been “utterly abandoned” by the UK Government.
The families of those being held hostage feel “hugely let down and hugely frustrated” by ministers, who they believe are not doing enough to lobby for their release.
One British couple, whose daughter and granddaughters were murdered by Hamas terrorists while their Israeli son-in-law was taken hostage, wrote to Rishi Sunak to complain of their “disgraceful” treatment by the Government.
A lawyer representing other British families of hostages said all those affected shared this sentiment.
In their letter, Pete and Gill Brisley and their family told of their “complete and utter abandonment by the UK Government” and accused ministers of “impotence and inadequacy” in their response to the crisis.
Their daughter Lianne Sharabi, 48, who grew up in Bristol before moving to Israel along with granddaughters Noiya, 16 and Yahel, 13, were killed by Hamas gunmen on Oct 7 at their home in Kibbutz Be’eri. All three were British citizens.
Lianne’s husband Eli and his brother Yossi were kidnapped by terrorists and taken into Gaza.
Mr and Mrs Brisley, both aged 79, from Bridgend in Wales, never received a specific response to their letter, which they sent on Oct 24.
They were sent a separate letter a week later from James Cleverly, the then foreign secretary, expressing his condolences, but officials insisted this was unrelated.
Their son Steve Brisley, 47, told The Telegraph of his family’s anguish at their treatment by the Government.
Not only do they feel there has been a lack of communication and empathy from officials, but they also are not convinced ministers are doing everything they can to secure the release of their relatives, he said.
Speaking from his home in Bridgend, he added: “This isn’t about point-scoring. But my granddad landed on Juno Beach on D-Day. My parents are Londoners. My father-in-law serves in the RAF. I work in the public sector and my wife’s a classroom assistant. My nephew’s a serving officer in the Royal Navy.
“If we can’t rely on our Government in our hour of need, then, you know, is all that public service for nothing?”
Mr Brisley told how his family have found it especially galling that Mr Sunak and Lord Cameron, the Foreign Secretary, have both visited Israel but have not taken the time to meet families in the UK who have lost loved ones.
“Rishi Sunak turns up at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem [and] bats away the BBC reporters who tried to ask him questions in the foyer, saying: ‘I need to go and meet with the families, they’re at the centre of all this.’ He certainly hasn’t come and met with me,” he said.
“It just seems very much like lip service. Rishi Sunak tweeted last week about ‘we’re doing all we can’ – it’s just ‘let’s throw out a couple of tweets. Let’s do a few photo opportunities, and then let’s jump back on our plane and go back to back to the UK’.
“One thing that I found particularly difficult and contemptuous was that David Cameron visited Kibbutz Be’eri, my sister’s home, last week. So he’s trodden in the dirt into which the blood of my sister and my nieces is soaked, and yet neither he nor his predecessor has seen fit to engage with the British families.
“He doesn’t need to don a flak jacket and Kevlar helmet to engage with us. But if there’s a press opportunity in Israel, then they’re there.”
The Brisleys are one of several British families waiting for news of their loved ones’ fate.
The elderly parents of Sharone Lifschitz, a British artist and academic, were also taken hostage. Her mother Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, has been released while her father Oded, 84, remains in captivity.
Ayelet Svatitzky is waiting for news of her brother Nadav Popplewell, a British citizen who is being held hostage. Her brother Roi was murdered and her mother Channa Perry, 79, was released last Friday.
Adam Rose, a partner at law firm Mishcon de Reya who is representing these four families, said they all shared the frustration of the Brisleys about the “lack of obvious engagement” from the Government.
“I don’t want to say there’s been no engagement or no activity by this Government,” he said. “There might have been – it’s just not being relayed to any of the families. It’s not being relayed to us as their advisers. There’s no real indication of what’s going on and, as a result, the families are just feeling hugely let down and hugely frustrated by the process.”
On Tuesday night, Noam Sagi, a 53-year-old Londoner, was reunited with his 75-year-old mother, Ada, after she was released from captivity alongside eleven other hostages.
Mr Brisley described how the release of hostages over the past few days has been “bittersweet” for him and his family.
“It’s at once beautiful and crushing,” he explained. “We want Eli and Yossi home because it will give us a chance to reunite with them and it will give us a chance to move on with our grieving process. This hanging over us is stopping us from grieving for my sister and my nieces because my whole life is consumed with this.”
A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “The safety of British people is our utmost priority and we are working around the clock to get them home, which is why we welcome the humanitarian pauses.
“The UK is involved in intensive and sensitive diplomatic efforts to secure the release of all hostages, working with Qatar, Israel, the US and others.
“Since the attacks of October 7th, we have worked tirelessly to support the British people affected. Just last week the Foreign Secretary met with the family members of hostages to directly hear their concerns, and he will continue to do so.”