Layla Moran 'incredibly lucky' after family flee Gaza

The British MP described her family's perilous journey to Rafah, as a UK minister condemned Israel's overnight strike on Gaza's border city.

MP Layla Moran speaking at a Humanity Not Hatred vigil. Photo: Together
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A British MP whose family escaped Gaza has said she and her family feel “incredibly lucky” to be among the hundreds able to flee from the territory.

Layla Moran, the first British MP of Palestinian heritage, helped get her mother’s family out of Gaza after months of agonising updates.

“We got them out, which I still can’t quite believe. It took months to get the paperwork in," she told the BBC on Sunday.

Palestinians are known to be paying at least $5,000 per adult for evacuation permits to Egypt, which can take weeks to come through. Many overseas relatives are helping them make the application, foot the bill and apply for visas elsewhere.

Ms Moran’s family had been sheltering in a church in Gaza city. When they were able to leave Gaza, they made a perilous journey to the southern border of Rafah, which Ms Moran described as an “incredibly brave day”.

“They shouldn’t have had to do this. And no one there who is living in the hell that is Gaza right now should have ever had to deal with this,” she said.

The family were now in Bahrain, Ms Moran said in a social media post earlier this month. Other British Palestinians have called for a Ukraine-style visa scheme to help evacuate their families.

Ms Moran's comments come as the UK’s Minister of State for the Middle, Lord Tariq Ahmed, condemned Israel’s air strike on a building in Rafah – the last place of refuge in Gaza.

The overnight strike killed nine people, including six children, according to hospital authorities in Gaza. “Appalled by the Israeli strike on a residential apartment in the densely populated Rafah in Gaza, which resulted in more children being killed,” he wrote on X.

“We must stop this fighting immediately and bring an end to this conflict,” he said.

Israeli officials have repeatedly stated their intention to invade Rafah in southern Gaza, despite concerns from US and UK that this would lead to massive civilian casualties.

One of Ms Moran’s family members died in Gaza in November after struggling to get to a hospital.

“We’d already lost a family member, their gallbladder had ruptured, they need a hospital, they sadly passed because they couldn’t get to one,” she said.

The family became trapped in the church they were sheltering in in December, after Israeli operations nearby led to attacks on the building. Ms Moran feared then that they would not survive the month. The IDF denied any attacks on the church at the time.

Calling for an immediate ceasefire, she warned of the excess deaths that would ensue after the collapse of Gaza’s healthcare system.

“In addition to the bombs that still fall, there is now a real risk of tens of thousands more people dying of excess deaths just like my family member did because the healthcare system in gone,” she said.

A February report by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine projected more than 58,000 excess deaths should the war continue at the same pace, and up to 75,000 if there is an escalation, Ms Moran added.

A shadow cabinet minister echoed Ms Moran’s warnings about an escalation as she urged against a possible Israeli ground offensive in Rafah.

Shabana Mahmoud, shadow justice secretary, said Gaza had become “hell on earth” but that an escalation could still have “catastrophic humanitarian consequences”.

"Many of the people that have died are women and children," she told Sky News on Sunday.

"People are starving. If we're not already in full famine in Gaza, we are certainly on the brink of famine.

"As the war has unfolded, we have seen an intolerable death toll in Gaza ... it has to stop."

Ms Mahmoud warned that a ground offensive in Rafah by the Israeli government would have "catastrophic humanitarian consequences in a place that is already hell on earth".

"We do not believe that that ground offensive should go ahead," she said.

"We have been calling consistently on the Israeli government to rule that out."

Updated: April 21, 2024, 3:08 PM