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by Margaret Taylor
15 October 2023
Nadia El-Nakla pleas for Gaza humanitarian corridor as SNP conference gets under way

An emotional Nadia El-Nakla addresses the SNP conference

Nadia El-Nakla pleas for Gaza humanitarian corridor as SNP conference gets under way

SNP members have called for civilians trapped in Gaza to be allowed to evacuate through an open border after Dundee councillor Nadia El-Nakla, who is married to First Minister Humza Yousaf, gave an emotional speech at the opening of the party’s annual conference.

The three-day event, which is taking place in Aberdeen, was supposed to be opened by a welcome from SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn, but in a change to the programme delegates were asked to give their backing to an emergency resolution proposed by international development minister Christina McKelvie.

After Yousaf made an unscheduled appearance on stage, El-Nakla arrived to a standing ovation. Having spoken throughout the past week of her growing concern for her parents, who are currently trapped in Gaza, she told how she had “started the week fearful and ended it in despair”.

Several of El-Nakla’s family members live in Palestine, including her brother and paternal grandmother, and she told how over the course of several Israeli-Palestinian conflicts she has witnessed situations including a time when Israeli soldiers took over the family home for three days.

“I’m used to suffering and being fearful, but this time it’s different,” she said. “Normally when the death toll reached a high enough number the world would ask for restraint.

“The numbers are soaring; Gaza is turned to rubble; there’s no food, no water, no electricity. We are seeing an assault on humanity. My heart feels like it is turning to stone.”  

More than 3,000 people are said to have died since Hamas launched its attack on Israel last weekend, 1,300 on the Israeli side of the border and 2,300 as a result of Israel's bombing campaign of the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli authorities have ordered those remaining in Gaza to leave ahead of an expected ground offensive, but in the absence of a humanitarian corridor there are no safe means for them to do so.

Watched by an emotional Yousaf, El-Nakla described how a colleague of her brother, who is an emergency doctor in Gaza, found his own two children dead when arriving at work, and said she has two big fears about the current situation: that 2.2 million people “will die through military attack” and that Gaza “will no longer exist”.

“Instead of sending spy planes, the UK should be sending supplies,” she said. “We are not watching a natural disaster, this can be stopped. What we are watching is an unimaginable horror.”  

Delegates gave their backing to the emergency motion, which has called for civilians to be allowed to evacuate through an open border without the risk of being caught in a military attack.

The party wants the international community to advocate for a humanitarian corridor, protected by ceasefire, to allow people to leave and civilian supplies, including food, fuel, water and medical supplies, to reach those who cannot leave.

McKelvie said: “We are united in our condemnation of terrorist attacks by Hamas, and it must also be made clear that the collective punishment of innocent people is unacceptable.

“There is a humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza, and it is a matter of urgency that essential supplies are made available.

“It is also important to recognise that many families and communities in Scotland will be affected by the violence in the region. I offer my condolences to everyone who has suffered as a result of this horrific conflict.

“We must be steadfast in our commitment to peace in the region and ensure that no more innocent lives are lost as a result of this conflict.”

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