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Son of Britons stranded in Gaza says Rishi Sunak is not doing enough to get them out

The son of a British-Palestinian couple stranded in Gaza has accused Rishi Sunak of a rhetoric of “hot air” after he announced he was moving Border Force teams to the border with Egypt in case it was opened to allow foreign nationals out.

Talal and Naila El-Deeb, 66 and 69, had been visiting family in Gaza when Hamas launched its deadly attacks on Israel, and are now among the likely thousands of foreign citizens unable to leave.

On Thursday, the Prime Minister announced that members of Border Force were now “pre-positioned” near the Rafah crossing to help British nationals to get out of Gaza in the event the border opens.

The Foreign Office told Britons the border “could open at short notice” over a week ago. But Mr El-Deeb claimed that nothing has happened since – and said that the Foreign Office had not given any update to his parents.

“[The Government] has made claims of being in talks and making progress for weeks,” Mr El-Deeb told i. “That is all hot air. The reality on the ground is that nothing is changing.”

Currently, UK Border Force teams can only be stationed on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing, making “no difference” to those waiting for news that they can escape on the Gazan side, Mr El-Deeb said.

Mr Sunak said the Foreign Office is in touch with 200 British citizens who are trapped in Gaza and claimed it been in contact with these individuals “for a while”.

“It’s been a feature of all my engagement in the region,” the PM said. “We’re very keen to be able to bring them out and bring them home.”

He added: “If there is a possibility for our nationals to cross the Rafah crossing, we’re ready to get them in and bring them back.”

But Mr El-Deeb claimed his parents had not heard from the Foreign Office since a message for them to move to the Rafah crossing weeks ago.

“We’ve been waiting for this possibility [to cross the border] for almost three weeks,” he said. “That window of opportunity has not come at all.”

Mr El-Deeb’s parents have travelled to the Rafah border crossing on various occasions before travelling back into Gaza. He previously told i that each time they went to the crossing, crowds were either “bombed at the crossing or through travelling half an hour through an active war zone to get there.”

Now Mr El-Deeb has told his parents not to travel to the border with Egypt “until we get something concrete”.

“If we see a single person crossing over the border, then we can actually start to believe something is going to happen,” he said.

In the mean time, his parents are living in “very, very bad” conditions, he said.

Despite having followed the Foreign Office’s advice and evacuated to southern Gaza, Mr El-Deeb said the neighbourhood in which they are staying has been “completely obliterated”.

“The house they are staying in is the only house left standing. Every other single one has been wiped out.”

Mr El-Deeb told i previously his parents were “stuck in a cage, waiting for slaughter”.

Mr Sunak said he is now pushing for a pause in fighting between Hamas and Israel to create a “safer environment” for UK citizens to leave the bombarded 25-mile strip – and to allow humanitarian aid to reach Palestinians.

i has contacted the Foreign Office for comment.

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