Scotland's First Minister Humza Yousaf has said he “genuinely does not know” if he will see his in-laws again after they got caught up in the Israeli-Gaza conflict while visiting family.
Mr Yousaf said he feels “completely powerless” to help Elizabeth and Maged El-Nakla, who are trapped in Gaza after Hamas militants killed hundreds of Israelis last weekend, triggering an escalation in the conflict.
In a round of interviews with broadcasters ahead of the SNP conference in Aberdeen, which starts on Sunday, he accused the Israeli government of “going too far” in its response.
He told the BBC: “All of us have said that, myself included, but collective punishment cannot be justified.
“Yes, they are going too far, collective punishment cannot be justified. It is innocent men, women, children, babies, with nothing to do with Hamas, who are paying an extraordinary price for those atrocious attacks, that they have nothing to do with.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government told The National the First Minister is calling for a ceasefire and the opening of a humanitarian corridor into Gaza.
“The First Minister’s focus is on calling for an immediate ceasefire to allow the safe passage of civilians through the Rafah border, and the opening of a humanitarian corridor into Gaza to allow supplies, including food, fuel, water and medical supplies, for those civilians who are trapped, helpless and cannot leave,” he said.
On Friday, Mrs El-Nakla, who is in Deir al-Balah in the Gaza strip, which is not included in the evacuation order, shared a video asking: “Where is the humanity?”
Mr Yousaf told Sky News it was a “really hard video to watch” for both him and his wife, Nadia El-Nakla.
“I do not know, I genuinely do not know if I will see my in-laws again,” he said.
“Nadia doesn't know she's going to see her mum and dad again.
“And all we can do is watch the news and look at all the rolling coverage.”
Mr Yousaf told Ms Rigby he felt “completely powerless” to help his mother and father-in-law.
He said: “All we can do is try to tell people's story. I cannot tell you how powerless and helpless I feel.
“Your first instinct is to protect your family as best you can and I am completely powerless.”
Mr Yousaf also revealed that his youngest daughter, Amal, four, asked him if “granny would be back in time for Halloween”, and that they had told her she was “scared of the thunder”.
They told her that she would be back, but Mr Yousaf told Sky News: “We honestly don't know if she will.”
In another interview with Channel 5 News, he said he had been in touch with a “junior minister” from the Foreign Office, but he was “pretty disappointed” Foreign Secretary James Cleverly had not been in contact with him.
Mr Yousaf said he and his wife were “distressed” about the situation and pleaded with the international community to open up humanitarian corridors so that people can leave Gaza.
He was asked if the Prime Minister had been in touch.
Mr Yousaf said: “No. No, and that's disappointing, but, look, I accept the Prime Minister has lots to do and lots to get on with.”
Earlier this week, Mr Yousaf sought to comfort the family of a Scottish man, Bernard Cowan, who died in the Hamas attacks.
Mr Yousaf was pictured embracing Mr Cowan's mother, Irene, during a service of solidarity in Renfrewshire on Thursday.
Speaking to the crowd of more than 500 people, the First Minister said: “Your grief is my grief.”
According to the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, Mr Yousaf said: “I stand in solidarity with Scotland's Jewish community, who have lost members of their community in the senseless and horrific attacks we witnessed last Saturday in southern Israel.
“I want to send my condolences to the victims and the families of all those affected by this desperate situation.
“At a time of great sorrow and sadness, I want you to be in no doubt whatsoever that I, and the government I lead, stand with you and with all communities who are mourning the loss of innocent life.”