UK MP Layla Moran’s family among hundreds trapped in Gaza churchon December 16, 2023 at 5:10 pm

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Layla Moran’s relatives and the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem say a sniper has killed two women there.

MP Layla Moran speaking at a Humanity Not Hatred Vigil in Richmond Terrace, Westminster, central London on 15 NovemberImage source, PA Media

UK MP Layla Moran says her relatives are among hundreds of civilians trapped in a Catholic Church in Gaza City as Israeli forces operate nearby.

The Liberal Democrat says her family are “days away from dying” without access to water or food.

Her relatives say six people including a mother and daughter have been killed inside the Holy Family Church complex by what appears to be sniper fire.

The BBC has contacted the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for comment.

Members of Ms Moran’s extended family – a grandmother, her son, his wife and their 11-year-old twins – are Christian Palestinians who sought refuge inside the church after their home was bombed in the first week of the war.

They have been staying on mattresses along with dozens of others in rooms in the Holy Family Church for more than 60 days.

“I’m now no longer sure they are going to survive until Christmas,” Ms Moran told the BBC.

They have been keeping in touch with Ms Moran and other family members sporadically through WhatsApp messages and calls – though they have no internet and power is intermittent.

A sixth member of the family – a grandfather – died last month after not being able to get to hospital to receive medical treatment, Ms Moran says.

The five remaining members say they now no longer have access to food or water, and the last remaining generator – which was pumping water from wherever they could get it – has stopped working in the church.

They say soldiers entered the church compound in the last 24 hours and took over a room in a building.

Earlier in the week, the family heard shots being fired and saw bullet casings in the church compound. They say two men were killed on Tuesday while they were coming and going from the building – a bin collector and a janitor.

The family have sent a photo, seen by the BBC, of two bodies lying on a street outside the church building. Ms Moran’s relatives say the bodies have been decaying outside for days. The BBC has not verified the circumstances of what is shown in the image.

Ms Moran says there has been no explanation as to why Israeli soldiers would target the church.

She says no warnings or leaflets were sent to people sheltering in the church saying the building would be targeted.

“It does feel like it’s making a mockery of keeping civilians safe,” Ms Moran adds.

Israel says it is carrying out military operations in Gaza to “eradicate” Hamas and rescue hostages taken by the group.

Early on in the war Israel told people in northern Gaza to move to southern Gaza for their safety. It has also paused military activity in some areas for short periods to allow people to leave. There was also a temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas to allow a swap of some Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners.

However Israel has also bombed southern Gaza, where it told people to go, and a large number of Palestinians have remained in Gaza City and other northern areas.

Ms Moran says she has been in touch with the UK Foreign Office about getting her relatives out of Gaza, but the situation is “incredibly complex”.

She adds that the family have considered trying to travel to Rafah in southern Gaza near the border with Egypt but say it is too dangerous while no ceasefire is in place.

Hamas broke through Israel’s heavily guarded perimeter on 7 October, killing 1,200 people and taking 240 hostages – some of whom were released during the brief truce.

The health ministry in Gaza, which is run by Hamas, says more than 18,700 people have been killed and 50,000 injured in the enclave since the start of the Gaza war.

Map of Gaza showing locations of Gaza City, Khan Younis and the evacuation zone in the north, as well as Israel and Egypt
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