British doctor trapped in Gaza after ambush destroyed car as family fled

Medic says his wife and children were forced to walk over bodies after attack on convoy heading for Rafah border crossing

Foreign citizens waiting to leave Gaza through the Rafah border crossing are living in fear as Israel's bombardment continues. AFP
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A British family remains trapped in Gaza after an attack by Israeli forces destroyed their car as they tried to reach the Rafah border crossing.

Dr Ibrahim Assalia told The National that he and his children had to take refuge in a tyre shop and travel 5km on foot, stepping over bodies, to escape.

The family, from north London, travelled to Gaza to visit his father before the conflict began. His father died of cancer a few weeks ago.

Dr Assalia said they were now trapped in Gaza because his name has not been added to the lists of foreign citizens allowed to cross the border into Egypt.

During their attempts to access the crossing, his family have come under fire and been shelled, he said.

"When we tried to cross the border it was just a horror story in itself. The car was hit and our luggage was destroyed, our family laptops gone," he said.

"We were told that we should use the Salah Al Din road, the main highway in Gaza, and it would be a safe corridor for British nationals between November 1 to 4. So my family and three other British families travelled along it in convoy on November 4. We were shelled and came under artillery fire in the middle of the road and we all had to turn back.

"We stopped for shelter and they fired bullets at our car. We had to run and hide in a tyre factory and they shelled the ceiling. We then had to run 5km to find another safe place. My wife and children had to walk on corpses and battlefield blood."

Dr Assalia, who is with his wife Rania, 45, four daughters and two other children aged seven and 11, said he was waiting for the UK Foreign Office to confirm his name has been added to a list at the border so they can escape.

"Very few British nationals are actually being allowed to cross. Not all family members names are being published on the approved list for the Israeli and Egyptian authorities," he said.

"We didn’t know when we spoke to the Foreign Office that they did not have any intervention with the names and Israel and Egypt decide who to pick and choose.

"I’m still waiting for my name to be approved. My family were approved last week. We are going to try to visit the corridor again. We will have to walk for 10km to access it and we were told not to bring any belongings.

"The reality is the Foreign Office can do nothing because it is simply in the hands of the Israeli and Egyptian authorities. They are the ones facilitating it.

"It’s a very horrible situation. Israel should be giving British citizens the right to travel and not be shelling them and trying to kill them."

He said his wife has no medicine and there was little food.

"My wife Rania has epilepsy and high blood pressure and we ran out of medication 10 days ago. We have informed the Foreign Office, but no one has given us any. She cannot leave without me as I need to care for her," he said.

"We came three months ago to see my dad who had lung cancer. He was supposed to get chemotherapy in Jordan but the war broke out and he passed away on October 22.

"Now, no inch or centimetre is safe in the whole of Gaza. Usually every minute we hear shells. We have asked the Foreign Office for help as there is a shortage of food and water and medicine. It is a very difficult situation here."

Updated: November 08, 2023, 2:21 PM