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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - LONDON: A Palestinian doctor who recently graduated from the UK’s prestigious Chevening Scholarship is believed to have been killed along with several members of his family in an Israeli airstrike.
Dr. Maisara Al Rayyes was photographed in September with UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and other graduates of the scheme, which is funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the BBC reported.
Al Rayyes, who was awarded funding to study for a master’s degree in health at King’s College London, was trapped beneath the rubble of a six-story apartment building in occupied Gaza on Sunday night.
The BBC on Wednesday morning tried to contact his younger brother, Moayed, who witnessed the strike from a neighboring house. But Moayed and his older sibling, Mohammed, were themselves killed in a separate Israeli airstrike on Wednesday afternoon while searching for their missing brother.
Video footage showed the bodies of the siblings lying among the rubble. A local journalist who was photographing their rescue efforts was also injured.
Friends said Al Rayyes’ parents and a nephew were found dead in the rubble of their family home on Monday, but the body of the 30-year-old doctor had yet to be recovered.
The Israeli military declined to respond to the BBC’s questions about the blast.
The UK Foreign Office said on X on Wednesday that it was “devastated” and offered its condolences to Al Rayyes’ family and the “Chevening Alumni community” but did not make any reference to the airstrike.
The tweet sparked outrage from some of the doctor’s former colleagues who accused the UK of trying to avoid any criticism of Israel. According to accounts of events described to the BBC, the handling of the incident had sparked “huge amounts of discontent” among some UK officials who felt the death announcement was not contextualized.
Hala Hanini, a Chevening graduate and close friend of Al Rayyes, accused the Foreign Office of whitewashing his death.
She told the BBC it was “disgusting, disappointing and outrageous” that the government did not raise any questions over how he was killed.
“It’s as if he just died of normal things,” she said. “(UK ministers) claim that Israel has the right to self-defense but … it actually has responsibilities over the occupied people to provide them with safety, security … (but) they are committing genocide and calling it falsely self-defense.”
Hanini also accused the UK of failing to uphold international law.
When asked about the concerns raised, the FCDO declined to comment, telling the BBC it “wouldn’t have anything to add beyond the tweet” about Al Rayyes.
The BBC report said it is believed that some staff counselors at the UK Foreign Office have spoken to senior officials about their concerns regarding the government’s position on the war in Gaza.
These include its passive stance toward Israel “breaching international humanitarian law” given the unprecedented scale of civilian deaths in Gaza, and that this could harm wider foreign policy, such as highlighting Russia’s violations of the global rules-based order in Ukraine.
A group of Chevening graduates in 28 countries wrote to Cleverly on Monday, pleading with him to protect their colleagues and “focus on the needs and safety of Chevening Alumni” in Gaza and “work toward an immediate ceasefire.”
Since the start of Israel’s attacks 32 days ago, more than 10,300 Palestinians have been killed, including over 4,100 children, according to the Gazan Health Ministry. The Israeli siege of the territory has denied its 2.2 million residents access to basic items such as food, water, fuel and electricity.
Many Palestinians accuse Israel of intentionally targeting civilians. Israel said it would not agree to a ceasefire until all of the hostages had been released.
The UK government has previously given its “unequivocal” support to Israel, saying it had a “right to defend itself” following the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7. The UK has also urged Israel to uphold international humanitarian law.
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