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MP Layla Moran Fears Family Trapped in Gaza Church ‘Will Not Survive Until Christmas’

“I fear my family under siege by Israeli forces in a church in Gaza will not survive until Christmas, between the snipers and the lack of water.”

Those were the stark words of Layla Moran, the MP for Oxford and Abingdon whose extended Christian Palestinian family members are among those who have been trapped inside the Holy Family church complex in Gaza City for 60 days.

“This time next week will be Christmas Eve,” she told the Guardian. “I don’t understand how the Israeli military think this is a good idea. It shouldn’t matter that they’re Christians, but I would ask US president Joe Biden, who himself is a professed Catholic, is this what he would want for his family?”

Moran said her relatives – her grandmother, her son, his wife and their 11-year-old twins – had been seeking shelter inside the church since their home was bombed in the first week of the war, and were now “absolutely terrified” following a week of escalating violence.

On Saturday, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said two Christian women – named as Nahida and her daughter Samar – were shot and killed while walking to a building in the complex known as the Sisters’ Convent. Seven others were shot and wounded trying to protect others in the compound, the patriarchate said.

On Sunday, the Pope said reports that the IDF had killed the two women were “very grave and painful”. “Unarmed civilians are the objects of bombings and shootings. And this happened even inside the Holy Family parish complex, where there are no terrorists, but families, children, people who are sick or disabled, nuns,” he said.

According to Moran, Israeli forces had since “taken the building opposite the Holy Family church, and there are now snipers at every window with their guns pointing into the church. There’s also a tank that’s taken up position outside. Anyone trying to move around is being shot at, so they’re obviously just not moving.”

She said no one knew why Israel had targeted the compound, though it has been reported that Israeli authorities have claimed that a missile launcher is based in the parish.

“These people have been in the compound for 60 days, so there’s a genuine question of why now, because no one’s really been coming in and out,” Moran said.

“Also, everyone there knows each other. The Christian community in Gaza is tiny. There’s still no suggestion that this has anything to do with Hamas, and it still doesn’t explain why they’re shooting women and children.

“These are innocent civilians, and the Israelis have known that they’re there. I’ve spoken about them at length at various stages, in part because I thought it might protect them. I just don’t understand what’s going on.”

The MP said the siege started last week, when her family reported white phosphorus and gunfire in the compound. An Israeli tank also fired on part of the compound with 54 disabled people inside, according to the patriarchate, causing a fire that destroyed the building’s generator. The complex’s solar panels and water tanks are also said to have been destroyed.

As well as the mother and daughter, Moran said her family told her that two men – a bin collector and a janitor – were shot and killed outside the church. “Everyone can hear the shootings, and my family saw the bullet casings,” she said. “They’re so worried. They literally can’t move. They can’t even leave to go to the toilet, so they’re going to the toilet where they’re sleeping.”

Moran said six members of her extended family originally sought refuge in the complex, but the grandfather died a few weeks ago, in part from dehydration. “He needed hospital treatment and couldn’t get it.”

She’s now concerned the others will not survive either. “Whatever food and water they have now is what they had days ago when this started. I understand that all they’re eating now is biscuits, and they’re soon going to run out.”

The MP, who has been keeping abreast of developments through short, sporadic phone calls, said there were no safe places left in Gaza. “The calculation in Gaza changed after the first month from ‘Where do you want to go to be safe?’ to ‘Where do you want to go to die?’”

A church, she stressed, should have been a place where her family and other Christians could seek sanctuary. “Their calculation was, ‘At least we’re in our city, in our church with people we know and love.’”

Moran said politicians, including Biden, had a responsibility to “raise the alarm with the Israeli government at every possible level” and call for a ceasefire.

“We wouldn’t be in this position if a ceasefire had been reached. To not call for one now would be unconscionable,” she said. “I do welcome what David Cameron has said today, though I don’t understand why it’s taken so long for him to come around to this position.”

The global community, she added, needed to do its utmost to prevent an escalating humanitarian disaster. “International humanitarian law applies to operation by operation. They’re firing on women and children.

“If they survive, I will be getting my family and others to give their testimony to the international criminal court, because that’s the place where justice will be done. But right now there is an immediate situation, and we need as many of them to survive as possible.”

Source: The Guardian