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Palestinian mother living in UK ‘helpless’ as daughter, five, trapped in Gaza

A Palestinian single mother living in the UK has said she feels “helpless” as her young daughter remains trapped in Gaza suffering “psychological trauma” amid a brief reprieve from the sound of bombing.

Israa Aljaish came to Scotland in September 2022 to study for a Masters degree in International Education at the University of St Andrews, and had to leave five-year-old Marlin in the care of her grandmother, Amal Aljaish.

Ms Aljaish, 29, who currently lives in Dundee, said she graduated in August and took a job as a postgraduate administrator with the university at the start of October, with plans to bring her daughter to the UK when the Israel-Hamas war erupted just days later.

Israa with Marlin and her mother Amal all smiling at the camera
Israa Aljaish with her mother Amal and daughter Marlin (Israa Aljaish/PA)

Marlin, whom she describes as “so smart”, has experienced trauma as a result of the conflict, according to Ms Aljaish’s mother, and is also suffering with fever, a “bad cough” and “no food and limited water”.

Ms Aljaish told the PA news agency: “I’m here and I can see my daughter is dying every passing day and I’m here doing nothing, I just see that in front of my eyes.

“I know she has faced some psychological trauma because of the noise of the bombing next to the place they are sheltering in.

“It’s not Marlin – as I know Marlin – it’s not the same person I knew before.”

Israa and Marlin hugging in front of a table at Marlin's third birthday party
Israa Aljaish said her five-year-old daughter Marlin is suffering ‘psychological trauma’ as a result of the conflict in Gaza (Shaban El Sousi/PA)

The temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was extended by another day minutes before it was due to expire on Thursday, with the hope that Hamas will keep freeing hostages in return for the release of Palestinian prisoners.

Ms Aljaish said her daughter has been suffering nightmares as a result of the conflict, saying: “She hears so many stories and she has terrible nightmares – she told me one of the nightmares was that she saw blood on my head.”

Israa and Marlin hugging and smiling at the camera
Israa Aljaish said leaving her young daughter in Gaza was ‘the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do’ (Israa Aljaish/PA)

When the war began on October 7, Ms Aljaish said her family members relocated to southern Gaza from their home in the centre of the Strip.

She added that her daughter and mother are currently sheltering in a flat with her three brothers, her sister-in-law, her two nieces and her nephew.

Israa standing in front of a building at the University of St Andrews
Israa Aljaish came to the UK on a scholarship to study International Education at the University of St Andrews (Israa Aljaish/PA)

Ms Aljaish set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to secure an expedited visa for her daughter to be able to leave Gaza at a cost of around £1,500, which she said she is in the process of applying for, but added her daughter will not be able to leave without her grandmother for fear of her facing “shock” and further trauma.

“My mum has the paternal responsibility for Marlin so she should have the right to leave Gaza with her but I still don’t know how this would work,” she said.

“I’m hoping my mum will be able to get to Egypt with her and then I can meet them there.”

Israa and Marlin kissing at her daughter's third birthday party
Israa Aljaish is seeking an expedited visa for her daughter Marlin (Shaban El Sousi/PA)

She added that she hopes the UK Government will support her case in order to relocate her daughter to Scotland, where she said she believes Marlin can find “safety, security and a chance for a better future”.

Ms Aljaish’s fundraiser, organised by one of her friends in the UK, has reached its target and raised more than £3,000 which prompted her to close the donations page for the time being.

PA has contacted the Foreign Office for comment.

– To find out more, visit: gofundme.com/f/reunite-israa-with-her-daughter-in-gaza