UK

UK charity on Gaza aid mission ‘perseveres’ with trip after Israeli air strike

Saraya Hussain, the managing director of charity Isra-UK, is leading an all-female deployment in Egypt to pack hygiene kits for women in Gaza.

Saraya Hussain, the managing director of charity ISRA-UK, who is leading a deployment in Egypt to pack and load aid to be driven into Gaza
A photo of Saraya Hussain, the managing director of Birmingham-based charity ISRA-UK, in Egypt Saraya Hussain, the managing director of charity ISRA-UK, who is leading a deployment in Egypt to pack and load aid to be driven into Gaza

A managing director of a UK-based charity on deployment in Egypt to pack aid for people in Gaza said it had been decided to “persevere” with a trip following the news that seven aid workers were killed in an Israeli air strike in the region on Monday.

Saraya Hussain, 47, from Birmingham, landed in Cairo, Egypt, on Monday night with an all-female deployment consisting of seven volunteers from the charity Isra-UK.

Starting on Thursday, the team will pack and load hygiene kits which will then be driven into Gaza, with the kits consisting of female-specific products such as sanitary towels, wet wipes, shampoo and hand sanitiser to support the women living in the war-torn region.

Ms Hussain said the Birmingham-based group had made the decision to “persevere” with their trip and they will remain in Cairo as planned “for the safety of the volunteers”.

It comes as three British nationals, James “Jim” Henderson, 33, James Kirby, 47, and John Chapman, 57, were among seven World Central Kitchen (WCK) aid workers killed in strikes by the Israel Defence Forces on Monday.

The team’s leader, Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom, 43, an Australian national, also died, along with American-Canadian dual citizen Jacob Flickinger, 33, Polish national Damian Sobol, 35, and Palestinian Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, 25.

Their convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, where the team had unloaded more than 100 tonnes of humanitarian food aid taken to Gaza on the maritime route, WCK said.

Ms Hussain, who is leading the all-female deployment in Cairo, told the PA news agency the deaths were “tragic and very, very concerning”.

“As a director of a UK-based NGO, I am concerned,” she said.

“We do have a Palestinian team on the ground in Gaza, and more specifically within the Al-Aqsa Hospital compound area (located in Deir al-Balah), so we are concerned with what is going on and what has happened.

“But obviously, I think charity aid work is something they do because they love it.

“They want to give back, they want to be able to support those that are in the most need, and the work doesn’t stop.”

Ms Hussain said that the group had questioned whether it wanted to go ahead with their deployment following the news of the air strike.

“When we heard of the air strike on Monday night, obviously we were concerned and we had to re-evaluate and say, ‘do we want to go ahead with this?’, and we’ve persevered,” she said.

“For the safety of the volunteers, we are going to stay in Cairo.

“If it was possible to get closer and not compromise safety, then we would.

“If it was possible for us to travel into Gaza and deliver the aid with our own fair hands, that’s what we’d like to do, but you’ve got to weigh up the options and risk-assess it.”

Ms Hussain added it was “worrying” the seven WCK aid workers had “lost their lives” while helping to support those most in need in Gaza.

“These are people that have travelled, given up their time, come away from their families, given up their life’s luxuries if you will, to go and be better people and do better in the world,” she said.

“To lose their lives in the process and leave behind multiple families that are mourning and grieving for them in some of the worst circumstances ever is really quite worrying.”