People in Gaza have lost faith in humanity, says Palestinian student in Scotland

A Palestinian PhD student living in Scotland has said “a lot of people in Gaza have lost faith in humanity” as he spoke about his family members who are sheltering in the war-torn region.

Mahmoud Almassri, 30, said he relocated to Edinburgh in 2021 to study physics at Heriot-Watt University in the Scottish capital.

He left Gaza in 2017 to complete a Masters degree in Turkey before moving to the UK, leaving his family members and friends in their hometown of Beit Hanoun, a city on the north-east edge of the Gaza Strip.

Following the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict on October 7, he said his relatives – including his 58-year-old father, his 53-year-old mother, his four brothers and three sisters – were displaced to a refugee camp in Jabalia, northern Gaza.

After heavy bombardment, his family were forced further south to Khan Yunis, where they have been staying in another refugee camp, which is a UN school, for around four-and-a-half months.

Mahmoud Almassri in front of the Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh
Mahmoud Almassri studies at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh (Mohammed Sabbah/PA)

“They know that the whole world has been seeing them live on TV being killed in their thousands.

“The only thing they can do is hope, they do not have any power to change anything on the ground, they are just civilians with no weapons, with no power.

“It is like hell on Earth every day – and even when you think they have reached a safe haven, it will be very temporary.”

He added that his father, Hamed, is a “very optimistic person” but on a recent phone call, he told him: “I do not see any way out and the outcome will be the killing of all of us and we are just trying to survive until that moment.”

Mr Almassri said he is “worried all the time” and would sometimes lose contact with his family members for around 20 days.

A photo of Mahmoud Almassri standing in front of a lake in Scotland
Mahmoud Almassri said he will sometimes lose contact with his family members in Gaza for around 20 days (Mohammed Sabbah/PA)

“I don’t know if they’re dead or alive, if they’re injured or they need me and it keeps happening again and again.

“The worst of it is that I could not help them and I was not there for them.”

Mr Almassri said his fifth brother, Mohammed, was killed at the age of 29 in “carpet bombing” in Gaza, saying he “left a pregnant wife who is expecting their first child”.

He also said some of his cousins and childhood friends have been killed in the conflict, as well as his uncle who was “shot dead by a sniper” when he went to look for food for his children.

For the rest of his surviving family, Mr Almassri said “the details are very, very bleak”.

“My father and brothers get up in the morning at six or seven o’clock to look for food and water and they come back in the evening, sometimes they have to swap the tasks because it’s too dangerous,” he said.

“They are crammed in a classroom in a school with no facilities, they have (to) wait in queues to go to the toilet, the details are very, very bleak.

A photo of Mahmoud Almassri in Scotland
Mahmoud Almassri is hoping to evacuate his younger brother, Ibrahim, from Gaza (Mohammed Sabbah/PA)

Mr Almassri said he is hoping to evacuate his brother, Ibrahim, 23, from Gaza in order for him to continue his studies in computer engineering.

He said his brother was studying at the Islamic University of Gaza, but the building was “totally destroyed”.

“(Ibrahim) does not want what he has accomplished to be lost and there is no hope for higher education in Gaza, or even rudimentary education, because all the schools have been destroyed,” he said.

“I’m hoping to secure the money to get him across the (Rafah) border to help him graduate and to help the rest of my family as well.

“I hope that I can get them all out and help them but I’m just trying to do whatever I can for now.”

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