Surgeon who left Gaza urges UK government to do more

Salim and Dr Abdelkadar Hammad
Dr Abdelkadar Hammad and his son Salim said their reunion was "bittersweet"

A surgeon who escaped from the war in Gaza has said the UK government should do more to get British nationals out.

Abdelkadar Hammad, who works at Royal Liverpool Hospital, is among 100 UK citizens who have left since Thursday.

However, he believes they could have got out of Gaza in the week after war began if there had been "concerted pressure from our government".

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden said the UK was trying to ensure people could leave "as rapidly as possible".

Dr Hammad said he was "very happy" to have been able to leave the war-torn region but he was also "sad about the continuing loss of life in Gaza, especially children".

"I would like to see more efforts to stop all this bloodshed, really, in Gaza."

What is the Rafah crossing?

Several foreign nationals walk after passing the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt
Several foreign nationals walk after passing the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt
  • The crossing between Gaza and Egypt, the only current route out of Gaza for foreign nationals, opened on Wednesday but was temporarily closed on Saturday in an apparent dispute over the evacuation of injured patients

  • Egypt and the armed Palestinian group Hamas - which is classified as a terrorist group by the UK government - control who can pass through but operations have been disrupted since war began

  • Egyptian media said the crossing was shut down following three Israeli attacks shortly after war broke out

  • On 12 October, the Egyptian government asked Israel to halt the bombardment near the crossing and said it would not open it until there were guarantees for the safety of its staff

Dr Hammad, who has visited Gaza regularly over the past decade to provide medical support, told BBC Radio 5 Live: "I think that the British government and probably all western governments have to make effort and put pressure on the parties there to get the people out.

"I thought we could have been out in the first week of the conflict if there was a concerted pressure from our government to get us out, and they should not have left us with our lives at risk there."

The surgeon arrived in Gaza on 6 October to perform four kidney transplant operations and had been scheduled to leave three days later.

However, he had to seek shelter when war broke out following the Hamas attacks in Israel, in which 1,400 people were killed and about 240 hostages taken.

Since then, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says more than 9,700 people have been killed in the Strip amid the Israeli bombardment.

"I can't stop thinking about my colleagues who I left there and the patients I usually treat in Gaza," Dr Hammad said.

"I think many of them [kidney patients] will die due to lack of treatment during this period and obviously those people will not be accounted for as victims of the war.

"But the conditions there - especially the medical situation there, which is disastrous - will be cause a lot of deaths in this group of patients."

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden appearing on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg
Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden said he was hopeful more British nationals could leave Gaza soon

Dr Hammad said many people in Gaza were living "without sanitation, water and food".

"People are fighting for bread, for flour… if this continues for any time longer, then I think there will be a breakout of diseases."

His son Salim said it had been a "stressful four weeks" for their family.

"Seeing him come out of the airport was just such a relief and it was bittersweet as well, knowing that he was able to come out, because we're lucky to have British passports and to be from England.

"But there are people who were not able to leave and it was bittersweet to think about everything that he's left behind there."

There were thought to be about 200 British nationals in Gaza before war broke out, with more than 100 having got out in the past few days.

Mr Dowden told the BBC's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg: "The first thing we are doing is trying to make sure we get the Rafah crossing open again and I'm hopeful we will make progress on that today.

"Secondly, we are seeking to have these temporary pauses to allow humanitarian aid in and to get our people out."

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