A surgeon from Britain, who has 16 relatives stuck in Gaza, is disappointed that there are no British citizens listed in the recent update of foreign passport holders permitted to exit the area via the Rafah border.
Dr. Ahmad Abou-Foul states that his family, including a four-month-old baby, is currently in a terrible situation where they are all living in a cramped one-room basement while waiting to escape.
The UK government has announced that the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza will be temporarily opened in order to facilitate the departure of certain foreign nationals and individuals who are severely injured. The Foreign Office has reached an agreement with Egyptian and Israeli officials to compile a list of British citizens who wish to leave Gaza. As of Wednesday evening, the first group of UK nationals has been granted permission to cross the border.
However, the most recent list, released on Thursday, does not seem to include any British citizens who are eligible to depart. The list does include 400 American citizens and several Europeans. Out of approximately 500 people on Wednesday’s list, only two were British. According to Downing Street, two British aid workers were able to make it to Egypt with the help of border force officials who were stationed to aid them.
67-year-old Dr. Abdel Hammad, a transplant surgeon from Liverpool, was unable to cross the border on Wednesday afternoon. He was working for a charity in Gaza and was one of the two Britons on the list. Along with another British aid worker, he went to the crossing but was informed that it was closed.
His son, Salim Hammad, 34, a doctor living in Goring, Oxfordshire, told the Guardian his father and another British aid worker were making their way through the crossing on Thursday morning.
Last night, I had a conversation with him and he was still in Gaza. This morning at 5am, he called me to let me know he was heading to the crossing. I received a text from him around 9:30am saying he successfully passed through the Palestinian side and is now on his way to the Egyptian side. This is a positive sign and hopefully, he will be out within the next few hours,” he reported.
“It has been a considerable amount of time, but I am hesitant to fully accept it until he calls me and confirms that he is out and in Egypt. With all the recent fluctuations, it is important for us to ensure his safety.”
Salim Hammad stated that the remarks from Downing Street regarding two aid workers successfully crossing did not pertain to his father or the other British individual on the list. He confirmed that his father and the other individual, both British nationals, were not released as he had spoken to them at 9pm and this morning, and they were still not out.
He stated that he was uncertain about the course of action once his father arrived in Egypt, commenting, “If things take a turn for the worse, I’ll personally retrieve him.”
According to Abou-Foul, a surgeon specializing in head and neck procedures at University Hospitals Birmingham, the Foreign Office has not given any guarantees that British citizens will soon be given priority. It is estimated that there are 200 British or dual nationals currently stranded in the Palestinian region.
During the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, it was reported that a new list was recently released. The list mostly consists of Americans, as well as a large number of South Americans and Europeans. However, it is unexpected that there are still no British citizens included on this list.
I am optimistic that the British nationals will eventually receive attention. However, the Foreign Office has not given us any guarantee that they have communicated with the Egyptians and that they are aware of our situation and will give us priority in the near future.
Abou-Foul discussed how his family is facing daily challenges as the conflict continues into its fourth week. This comes after Hamas launched violent attacks in Israel on October 7th, resulting in over 1,400 deaths. The Palestinian death count has now risen to 8,525, according to Gaza’s health ministry run by Hamas.
Abou-Foul expressed that the current situation is extremely alarming and continuously worsening. Obtaining clean drinking water and food remains a daily challenge, particularly for families with young children – the youngest being only four months old. The constant threat of danger from bombings adds to the difficulty of the situation.
The British Foreign Office has stated that they have reached an agreement with Egyptian and Israeli authorities regarding a list of British citizens who wish to leave Gaza. They will be notified in advance when those individuals on the list are able to use the crossing, in order to provide any necessary assistance.