The Scottish health secretary Humza Yousaf has expressed his anguish and anger over the situation in Gaza, where his wife’s parents are trapped amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Yousaf said he had no contact with his in-laws since Friday, when communications were cut off in the besieged territory. He said he did not know if they were alive, injured, or buried under rubble.
He also criticized the UK government for abstaining from a UN resolution calling for a ceasefire, saying it was “complicit in some of the violence”.
A desperate phone call
Yousaf said he last spoke to his mother-in-law Elizabeth El-Nakla on Friday morning, when she told him they were trying to find the safest place in their house to survive a bombing.
She and her husband Maged had traveled to Gaza before the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 and have been unable to leave since then.
They have been sheltering in a house with around 100 people, including children and elderly.
Yousaf said he was heartbroken by the fear and uncertainty in his mother-in-law’s voice.
“She said to me the family that night had to work out if there was continued bombing, or if it got closer to their house, basically what corner or which room they would go into which would give them the best chance of survival,” he said.
“That’s the kind of life they are living – it’s all about how to survive, as their expectation is at some point they will be hit.”
A family in limbo
Yousaf said his wife Nadia El-Nakla was “numb” and showing “unbelievable strength” in coping with the situation.
He said he was also worried about the impact on his four-year-old daughter, who misses her grandparents and pretends to talk to them on a toy phone.
He said he had tried to contact the Foreign Office and other agencies to help his in-laws, but had received little assistance or information.
He said he felt “abandoned” by the UK government, which he accused of doing “next to nothing” to advocate for peace and protect its citizens in Gaza.
He said he was also disappointed by the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who has not called for a ceasefire and has supported the Tory government’s diplomatic push for “humanitarian pauses”.
A call for peace
Yousaf said he was not alone in his suffering and anger, as thousands of people across Scotland, the UK, and the world have protested against the violence and called for an end to the hostilities.
He said he was not taking sides in the conflict, but demanding a ceasefire from all parties.
He said he believed that more bloodshed would only fuel more hatred and resentment, and make a peaceful resolution of the Israel-Palestine question more difficult.
He also urged people in Scotland to stand in solidarity with both the Jewish and Muslim communities, who may feel anxious or threatened by the repercussions of what is happening in the Middle East.
He said he hoped that his family and all the innocent civilians in Gaza would be spared from further harm and be able to return home safely.
“I don’t know whether they have been hit or not, whether they are alive or not, whether they are stuck under rubble or not,” he said.
“It has been three weeks now they have been trapped in that warzone and our hearts are broken for them.”