Israel-Palestine war: British woman who went to Gaza for wedding 'losing hope'
The family of a British woman stranded in Gaza has said she is "losing faith" that the UK government will evacuate her, as Israel intensifies its bombardment and ground assault on the Palestinian enclave.
Asma al-Badawi, sister of Zaynab Wandawi, said the school teacher from the north of England travelled to the besieged territory to attend a family wedding just days before the conflict erupted following the deadly attack by Hamas fighters in southern Israel on 7 October.
Speaking to Middle East Eye, Badawi said her family had "struggled to stay optimistic" in the last two weeks during which Israel has limited communications from Gaza and launched daily air strikes that have killed more than 8,000 people and injured more than 22,000, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
"The first week she was stranded, it was just complete and utter dread. I was constantly breaking down and crying, fearing the worst," said Badawi.
"My sister went to Gaza to attend her brother-in-law's wedding and was meant to return a week later. But then the Israelis told them to move to the south after they began bombing Gaza.
'Every single day, we are bombarded. Hundreds of bombs, thousands of bombs have landed in homes, schools, mosques and hospitals'
- Zaynab Wandawi, video from Gaza
"We've had limited communication with Zaynab, but when we do, it is short messages saying she's okay, but we can tell she is losing hope."
Videos posted by Asma on behalf of Zaynab have shown her standing in destroyed areas of Gaza, calling on people to demand a ceasefire.
"Every single day, we are bombarded. Hundreds of bombs, thousands of bombs have landed in homes, schools, mosques and hospitals," Wandawi said in one of the videos.
"We've contacted the foreign office to, at the very least, get out its citizens. But now we are asking you to call for a ceasefire."
Badawi said her family was initially hopeful that officials from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) would evacuate Zaynab and her family when news reports emerged that the UK had begun evacuating British nationals in Israel.
But those hopes have faded with each day that passes, she added.
"When we started posting on social media that Zaynab and her family was stranded in Gaza, people kept commenting that they're not white and that the government are not gonna do anything for them. As the days go by, it feels like that is the reality," said Badawi.
Badawi said officials had directed Zaynab to an FCDO hotline dedicated to helping British nationals in Gaza.
“We are asking you to be our voice"— Middle East Eye (@MiddleEastEye) October 29, 2023
Zaynab, a British-Palestinian student at Manchester University, went to Gaza with her family two days before the war broke out. She says they have tried to contact officials in the UK government to help them return to England, but to no avail pic.twitter.com/rlc8EAP0Xf
"But the most the hotline said was they can call for a Red Crescent ambulance if there is a dire need."
The Foreign Office did not respond to a request for comment at the time of writing.
Last week, Gillian Keegan, the British education minister, told Sky News that at least 200 British nationals remained stranded in the Gaza Strip.
Keegan said the government had deployed staff from its Border Force to the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt to process British nationals leaving the enclave.
The minister did not clarify whether the 200 British nationals she refers to include hostages captured by Hamas in southern Israel on 7 October and taken back to the Gaza Strip.