Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf, whose parents-in-law are trapped in the Gaza Strip amid intense Israeli air attacks, has called for a humanitarian corridor to allow vital supplies into the besieged enclave and people to leave.
In an interview with Al Jazeera on Wednesday, Yousaf said his family received a message from his mother-in-law telling them that they were alive after a “terrifying night”.
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“The situation is absolutely dire, and that is why I’ve spent the last 24 hours calling for a humanitarian corridor to be set up to allow vital supplies to come into Gaza and to allow also the safe passage of people from Gaza to leave,” said Yousaf, whose wife is Palestinian. “Because they are being told to leave, but they have nowhere to go.”
Bombardments on Gaza intensified overnight as Israel ramped up attacks following Hamas’s surprise land and air attack on Saturday morning.
The death toll from Hamas’s attacks has surpassed 1,200, with more than 2,700 injured, according to the Israeli military.
Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has killed at least 1,055 people and wounded 5,184 others, according to Palestinian officials.
The Israeli military has announced a “full siege” of the enclave, including a ban on incoming food, water and fuel.
The United Nations’ human rights chief, Volker Turk, has denounced Israel’s move and said a siege is “prohibited under international law”.
Palestinians have been unable to leave Gaza freely since the imposition of a land, air and sea blockade in 2007, despite warnings from Israel to leave the enclave in advance of its attacks.
“I’ll give you my own family’s example,” said Yousaf.
“Yesterday morning, my mother-in-law and father-in-law were told that the Rafah border may well be opened for them and as, of course, the border controlled by Egypt, they may be able to get out.
“They were about to get in the car when they were told that Rafah had been bombed and that the crossing was closed indefinitely,” he said.
Yousaf added that while he “completely understands” why Israel wants to protect itself, the price cannot be the “collective punishment of two million people”.
The UN has said more than 180,000 Palestinians have been made homeless after strikes levelled apartment buildings in once densely populated areas.
Gaza’s sole power plant also said on Wednesday that fuel had run out, placing further strain on already stretched medical facilities, which face being plunged into darkness.
Yousaf appealed to other leaders to highlight the conflict’s inequality.
“What we need leaders to do, whether they are in the West or wherever they are across the world, is to treat an Israeli life and a Palestinian life as equal,” he said.
“The collective punishment of over two million people in Gaza – men, women and children – simply cannot be justified.”