Retired nurse Elizabeth El-Nakla, the mother-in-law of Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf, has said she “left her heart” in Gaza after weeks stuck there facing Israeli bombardment.
Ms El-Nakla and her husband Maged were visiting relatives last month when Hamas launched its deadly attack on Israel, leaving them trapped in the region for weeks as Gaza’s borders were slammed shut.
Ms El-Nakla, from Dundee, said she and her husband experienced a “living nightmare” when Israeli bombings began in the region in retaliation.
The couple returned safely to Scotland nearly a month into the conflict, after being permitted to pass through the Rafah border crossing into Egypt with other foreign citizens – while two million Palestinians still remain trapped and unable to leave despite the bombardment and shortages of food, water and fuel.
Speaking to Beth Rigby of Sky News, Ms El-Nakla said: “It still feels very surreal, waking up in the middle of the night and I hear silence and in the dark. And then I remember I’m at home and that I’m safe.
“I feel very grateful for that. I walk down to my sister-in-law, who lives five minutes away, in the rain, in the dark, but feeling safe.
“I think no-one can understand how that makes you feel when you’ve been in a situation where you think that you may die.
“Unfortunately, until our family and the people that we know and love and everyone in Gaza are safe, I don’t think we will get it. And I think my life has changed forever.”
She added of the conflict: “I wouldn’t wish that situation on my worst enemy.”
The couple managed the leave the region on 3 November after two failed attempts, just under a month on from the 7 October attacks in Israel.
Ms El-Nakla spoke of losing hope “so many times”, also telling of fears about never getting home.
She added: “I hadn’t slept for 48 hours. I hadn’t slept for nearly three weeks. And you’re just so relieved. But you still don’t believe it and you’re so exhausted.
“Then you get on the bus and you see all these happy children. We were given a bottle of water and a pack of biscuits. And it is such a relief. You can’t imagine.
“But, again, your heart is torn. I left my heart in Gaza and I didn’t bring it home with me.”