British woman trapped in Gaza says Foreign Office sent sad face emoji
British woman trapped in Gaza says she was sent a sad face emoji by Foreign Office as she pleaded for help escaping warzone
- Zaynab Wandawi, from Salford, arrived in Gaza shortly before the war broke out
- Israel-Hamas war LIVE: Follow MailOnline’s live blog for updates on the conflict
A British teacher trapped in Gaza says a Foreign Office official sent her a sad face emoji as she described desperately trying to escape Israeli bombardment, with the Government’s response leaving her feeling ‘insignificant’.
Zaynab Wandawi, an English teacher from Salford, Greater Manchester, travelled to Gaza with her husband earlier this month – just days before Hamas terrorists carried out their bloody October 7 massacre.
She had been messaging a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office official, who told her they had not heard anything about when the Rafah border crossing to Egypt would be open and that they ‘can’t do anything more’ to help her leave.
‘The longer we are here, the higher the chance that we will not make it to the Rafah border,’ Zaynab told them. ‘I honestly don’t think they know how much our lives are at risk.’
The official sent a sad face emoji in response, Sky reports, saying: ‘I really don’t understand why they are taking so long.’
Zaynab Wandawi, an English teacher born in Salford, Greater Manchester, travelled to Gaza with her husband at the beginning of October
Zaynab, 29, said that for ‘a couple of days’ their trip was ‘relatively normal’ before war broke out, but that they are now trapped in a warzone
Zaynab had been messaging an FCDO official who told her they had not heard anything about when the Rafah border would be open
Zaynab and her husband – who is British Palestinian – and his family, including seven siblings and his mother, were in the territory for a family member’s wedding.
The 29-year-old said that for ‘a couple of days’ their trip was ‘relatively normal, for what Gaza considers normal’ before war broke out, but they are now trapped in a warzone.
She said a bomb that exploded nearby during an interview gave ‘just a glimpse’ of what she and her family are going through every day in the war-torn territory.
The UK and US have said they are pushing to get their citizens out of Gaza, with Rishi Sunak saying the Government is ‘very keen’ to get British nationals out and home.
Zaynab said she and her family are desperate to escape the besieged strip, which has come under heavy aerial bombardment from Israel’s Defence Forces for the last three weeks and is now gripped by a bitter ground offensive.
Speaking of her communications with the FCDO, she said: ‘It made me feel like they don’t even consider me a British national, it made me feel insignificant to be honest.
‘I was really angry because each day that we’re still here there’s a higher chance we’ll never get out. It’s very scary, there are a lot of deaths.
‘I don’t want to go into a lot of detail over the phone but it’s devastating.
‘I’ve never witnessed anything like this in my life, it’s disgusting and not safe.’
Zaynab said she and her family are desperate to escape the besieged strip, which has come under heavy aerial bombardment from Israel’s Defence Forces for the last three weeks
Zaynab Wandawi, a British national born in Salford, Manchester
During a call with reporters, a bomb could be heard approaching and then exploding next to the building Zaynab was in.
‘That was just a bomb next to our house,’ she said.
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‘The sound of that bomb is just a glimpse, not even, of what we’re going through here every single day.
‘Hundreds of those every day, and every time we hear a bomb we think: “Oh, who was affected by that bomb?”
‘I’m OK, I was just checking on my family, we’re OK.’
Zaynab said thousands of Palestinians have died while she has been there, while their access to water and fuel has also been cut.
‘It’s just been terrible being here, it’s been horrible seeing so many lives destroyed, so many families shattered, so many children die,’ she said.
‘Thousands of Palestinians have died while I’ve been here, it’s been horrible.
‘Not only are they attacking us with bombs but of course they’ve cut off our water, electricity, fuel, we have nothing, and it’s just affecting the civilians, these cuts.
‘It’s a luxury, honestly, if you’re able to wash your body, you’re doing really good. It is difficult just to wash your hands in these situations.’
Zaynab’s mother, Lalah Ali-Faten, 52, from Prestwich, north Manchester, said her daughter has been in touch with the FCDO, but is receiving ‘more or less generic responses’.
‘Their internet signal is very weak. So I wait for a message from her in the morning to see if she’s made it through the night, and as soon as I get a message there’s a temporary relief, but then as soon as her internet goes, I don’t know what’s happening,’ she said.
‘It’s been harrowing to be honest, from one minute to the next I don’t know if she’s alive, so that has affected us as a family really.
‘Her birthday was on the 24th so she spent her birthday there, she turned 29 a few days ago.
During an interview about her situation, a bomb could be heard approaching and then exploding
‘I see her on the calls and she’s visibly shaking, she’s not herself, she’s definitely traumatised, as are all the people there.’
Zaynab said that they had planned to leave on October 17, and added that her husband’s brother is in high school.
His sister, she said, had just started at the University of Manchester, and had booked to return on October 12 in order not to miss school or university.
The Palestinian death toll has soared past 8,500, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, as Israel has carried out waves of devastating air strikes in response to the terrorist incursion into southern Israel, which saw over 1,400 Israelis killed.
Palestinians look for survivors after an Israeli strike in Rafah, Gaza Strip, on Tuesday
The UK has abstained on a UN Security Council resolution which would have called for ‘humanitarian pauses’ to deliver lifesaving aid to millions in Gaza.
According to the UN’s news website, ‘UK Ambassador Barbara Woodward said that her country abstained from the resolution as the text needed to be clearer on Israel’s inherent right to self-defence, and because it ignored the fact that extremist group Hamas, which controls Gaza, is using Palestinian civilians as human shields’.
Zaynab said: ‘We know the UN called for a vote for a ceasefire and the majority of the countries were in favour of this ceasefire, but the country that I’m from, the UK, abstained – abstained from a ceasefire!
‘All we want is for the bombing to stop. So a message for our PM would be: “You’ve abstained from a ceasefire, please don’t abstain from allowing your citizens to return home, please actually take action. Please stop the bombing, stop the killing.”‘
A column of smoke rises from the damaged buildings in Gaza seen from the Sderot city after Israeli airstrikes
Gaza has come under heavy aerial bombardment from Israel’s Defence Forces for the last three weeks and is now gripped by a bitter ground offensive
On Monday, witnesses said Israeli forces targeted Gaza’s main north-south road and attacked Gaza City from two directions.
They said they saw ‘dozens’ of Israeli tanks operating on the southern outskirts of Gaza City.
Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, said ground operations are focused on northern Gaza, including Gaza City, which he said was the ‘center of gravity of Hamas’.
‘But we also continue to strike in other parts of Gaza. We are hunting their commanders, we are attacking their infrastructure, and whenever there is an important target that is related to Hamas, we strike it,’ he said.
The withering aerial bombardment has obliterated homes and entire neighbourhoods, leaving the territory’s 2.4million residents with little access to water, food, fuel and other essentials.
The mounting death toll has drawn calls from the US, Israel’s top ally, 120 governments and the UN for a pause in fighting to allow more humanitarian aid to reach the enclave.
On Monday, the UNRWA said the limited number of aid trucks entering Gaza was insufficient to meet the ‘unprecedented humanitarian needs’
Palestinians mourn their loved ones killed during Israeli bombardment, ahead of a funeral service in Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip
‘Nearly 70 per cent of those reported killed are children and women,’ said Philippe Lazzarini, who heads the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA. ‘This cannot be “collateral damage”.’
The UNRWA yesterday said the limited number of aid trucks entering Gaza was insufficient to meet the ‘unprecedented humanitarian needs’ and civil order has broken down with people storming UN warehouses in search of food.
An FCDO spokesman told MailOnline: ‘As the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have said, the safety of British nationals remains our top priority.
‘We are working closely with Egypt and Israel to ensure all British nationals can exit via the Rafah crossing or other routes as quickly as possible. Intensive diplomacy has been ongoing over the weekend – including with Israel and Egypt.’
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