British-Palestinian MP releases audio of family’s plight in Gaza church

Layla Moran's relative fears that people in the church will either be killed by Israeli bombardment, or die of starvation

British-Palestinian MP pleads for ceasefire to save family in Gaza church

British-Palestinian MP pleads for ceasefire to save family in Gaza church
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Layla Moran has released an audio message of her family’s plight in a church compound in Gaza, where they are sheltering from an Israeli siege and bombardment.

In a tearful message, Ms Moran’s cousin said that her mother had been “locked in” to her room, because the Catholic church was surrounded by Israeli snipers.

People are afraid to go to the toilet after two women were shot and killed on Saturday. The relative’s mother had nothing left but a can of tinned corn to eat, according to the recording that was sent to Ms Moran, the first British-Palestinian MP.

Although the Israeli military told Ms Moran that food had been delivered, her family said they had not seen it.

People sheltering in the church could starve, the cousin said. “If people didn’t die from the missiles they will die from hunger,” she said.

Ms Moran's family are among the hundreds of Palestinian Christians believed to be sheltering in the church after they were displaced by Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza.

Speaking in Parliament today, Ms Moran re-iterated her relatives’ plight, and stressed the innocence of the people sheltering in the church complex.

“They have nothing to do with Hamas. They are nuns, orphans, disabled people. They are a small Christian community and they know everyone,” she said.

“It is categorically untrue to say that Hamas operates from there,” she said.

She feared a continuation of the war would take Israelis and Palestinians farther from peace. “This violence is making peace harder, not easier,” she said.

Ms Moran spoke ahead of a UN Security Council resolution vote on Tuesday for a “suspension of hostilities”.

She criticised Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s calls for a “sustainable ceasefire”, which would be implemented once Hamas no longer controls the Gaza Strip and all hostages are released.

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“While I welcome the change in tone, it is unclear whether this is a change in position,” she added.

“When will the PM accept that the only route to peace is political, not military?” she said.

Instead, she urged the British government to demand for an “immediate bilateral ceasefire”, and to change how it votes at the Security Council.

Responding to this, Andrew Mitchell, Minister of State for Development and Africa said the UK was exploring other aid routes into Gaza, including by sea.

“We are doing everything we can to get humanitarian support into Gaza, including focusing specifically on any maritime opportunities,” he said.

The Royal Navy’s landing ship docked in Cyprus was “loaded with supplies” and “ready to sail” once these could be delivered.

The UK will support a “new route” for aid coming into Gaza from the Jordanian border into the recently opened Kerem Shalom crossing in Israel.

“There are 50 World Food Programme trucks ready at Allenby Bridge to travel through Israel to Kerem Shalom. If signed off it will provide a new route through to Gaza,” Mr Mitchell said.

“We have made available money today to the World Food Programme to enhance that route if it opens,” he added.

While the UK recognised there had been “too many casualties” in Gaza, it was pressing forward for “more extensive humanitarian pauses” that would allow aid to get through.

Mr Sunak expanded on what he means in his call for a sustainable ceasefire in Gaza. The British Prime Minister told the Commons Liaison Committee on Tuesday there is no “perfect formula for peace” but a sustainable ceasefire is one in which Hamas is no longer able to attack Israel.

"A ceasefire is clearly not going to last if hostages are still being held," he said. "And also if Hamas, whose stated aim is to destroy Israel, is still able to operate in underground tunnels and launch rocket attacks into Israel. So those are important facets that we need to grapple with.

"And ahead of a permanent ceasefire, what we'd like to see are immediate and sustained humanitarian pauses which allow release of more hostages and more aid to enter Gaza."

Updated: December 19, 2023, 4:55 PM