Egypt and Liverpool footballer Mohamed Salah has called for an end to “massacres” in Gaza, saying humanitarian aid must immediately be allowed into the besieged Palestinian enclave.
The 31-year-old forward made his first comments on the deepening Israel-Gaza conflict on Wednesday amid growing outrage over the deaths of nearly 500 people in an explosion at the al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City.
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Palestinian authorities say the blast was caused by an Israeli air raid. Israel says the explosion was the result of a rocket launched by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) armed group misfiring. The PIJ has rejected the allegation.
“It is not always easy to speak in a time like this. There has been too much violence and too much heartbreak and brutality,” Salah said in a video posted to his 62.7 million followers on Instagram.
The footballer, who captains Egypt’s national team, had been criticised for not speaking up in defence of Palestinians, and some critics had started an online campaign to unfollow him on social media.
“The escalations in recent weeks is unbearable to witness. All lives are sacred and must be protected. The massacres need to stop, families are being torn apart.”
— Mohamed Salah (@MoSalah) October 18, 2023
A Champions League and Premier League winner with Liverpool, Salah is one of the most popular athletes in the Arab world.
Gaza has been besieged since October 7 when Hamas fighters launched a surprise attack on Israel killing some 1,400 people and taking others captive. Israel declared war in response, subjecting the territory of 2.3 million people to relentless bombardment. Some 3,480 Palestinians have been confirmed killed in the attacks.
US President Joe Biden flew to Tel Aviv on Wednesday and said Israel had agreed to his request to allow aid into Gaza amid mounting concern about dwindling supplies and warnings of a humanitarian catastrophe.
The enclave had already been struggling under a 16-year Israeli blockade.
Egypt has said it will allow 20 trucks carrying humanitarian aid into Gaza through the Rafah crossing in the territory’s south.
“What is clear now is that humanitarian aid to Gaza must be allowed immediately. The people there are in terrible conditions,” Salah added.
“The scenes at the hospital last night were horrifying. The people of Gaza need food, water and medical supplies urgently.
“I am calling on world leaders to come together to prevent further slaughter of innocent souls – humanity must prevail.”