Scotland's First Minister accuses Keir Starmer of a lack of 'moral courage' as he reveals fears for his family in Gaza

13 October 2023, 17:00 | Updated: 13 October 2023, 18:51

Humza Yousaf says he's losing hope for his family in Gaza.
Humza Yousaf says he's losing hope for his family in Gaza. Picture: Alamy

By Gina Davidson

Scotland's First Minister has told LBC that Keir Starmer and other political leaders backing the Israeli government's decision to cut power and water supplies to Gaza lack "moral courage and leadership" and should "speak out against collective punishment".

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Humza Yousaf also revealed his hope of his wife's parents being able to escape Gaza is reducing with every day that passes.

Speaking ahead of his party's annual conference which begins on Sunday, the First Minister battled to keep his composure as he told of his family's terror watching what was taking place in Gaza in the wake of the Hamas attack on Israel on Saturday.

Hundreds of thousands of people are currently fleeing northern Gaza after an Israeli warning that they should move south before a ground invasion begins. Hamas has told Gazans to remain.

Mr Yousaf's mother-in-law Elizabeth El-Nakla posted a video on social media today warning that it could be her last.

The UN has urged Israel to withdraw its order, warning of "devastating humanitarian consequences". More than 1500 people have been killed in Gaza through air strikes in retailiation to the Hamas attack which killed 1300 Israelis.

Hamas fighters also kidnapped at least 150 people and took them into Gaza during the brutal attacks on Israel. The Israeli government has said it's blockade fuel, food and water in Gaza will remain in place until all hostages are freed.

Asked how he felt about Keir Starmer saying Israel had the right to blockade Gaza and cut off supplies including power, Mr Yousaf told LBC: "Keir Starmer or any politician who cannot muster up an iota of empathy for those people in Gaza, innocent men, women and children who are suffering, to me shows a lack of moral courage.

"And it shouldn't take moral courage actually, it should just be human instinct to say that a Palestinian life is equal to an Israeli life - that people who are innocent shouldn't have to pay the price of the atrocities of Hamas is terror.

"But the inability for some politicians to say that, as I say to me demonstrates a lack of moral leadership or moral courage. Go above the geopolitics for a moment. Human beings are suffering. If that was your father or mother, that was your daughter, your grandmother, how would you feel? We cannot allow collective punishment to be justified neither morally nor in terms in terms of international law."

He added: "It is still a really desperate and dire situation.

"If I'm being frank, every day that goes on, then the more and more we begin to lose some hope because that window narrows and my family have so few supplies, little drinking water left.

"And now of course, 1.1 million Gazans from the north have been told to go south and there are 2.2 million people in Gaza who are suffering.

"This is the plea that I've been trying to make - we know that Israel rightly has the right to defend itself from terror, nobody equivocates on that point, but it can't be at the price of 2.2 million innocent Gazans who have nothing to do with Hamas, like my mother or my father-in-law. But they're the ones that are paying the price.

"It's been an exceptionally difficult week for my family, but the families in Gaza for them it is beyond hope."

LBC understands that despite writing to Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, Mr Yousaf has not received a response, and there has been no contact from the Prime Minister.

He said he had attended a synagogue in Glasgow last night to offer his condolences to the Jewish community in Scotland.

"I wanted to go as First Minister to say to our Jewish community here in Scotland, as a First Minister who is proudly Muslim, that Jewish communities have my solidarity, my sympathies and my condolences for the losses that they have suffered."

He met with the mother of Glasgow man Bernard Cowan who was shot dead by Hamas terrorists on Saturday.

"We hugged and we cried, because ultimately this is about humanity," said Mr Yousaf. "Whether you're Israeli or Palestinian, innocent men, women and children should not suffer and that's my plea. My prayers. Let us treat a Palestinian life equal to an Israeli life.

On the hostages being held by Hamas, he urged their release: "I don't want to see innocent men, women and children suffering in any way, shape or form.

"So of course, we want to see the release of hostages. I keep going back to my central point, regardless of the situation and the atrocious terror attacks that took place on Saturday, what we have to see is not more death of innocent men, women, children.

"We have to see humanitarian corridors open. Of course, unequivocally I condemn the actions that took place on Saturday morning. But also, of course, we all want to see those hostages released and those family members who are greatly suffering, wondering what's happened to their loved ones, we want to see them reunited again."

The Labour Party has been asked for a response.

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