Salford teacher stuck in Gaza turned away at Rafah border as name 'not on list'

Lalah Ali-Faten spoke to Simran Johal about her daughter's situation in Gaza.

A British teacher stuck in Gaza following a family wedding has been turned away at at the border crossing because her name was "not on the list".

Zaynab Wandawi travelled from Salford to Gaza at the beginning of October with her husband, who is British Palestinian, and his relatives for a family member’s wedding before the Israel-Hamas war erupted.

The 29-year-old says she was instructed by the Foreign Office to move closer to the border, and was waiting for the Rafah border to open.

But, when the crossing opened on Wednesday 1 November for “controlled and time-limited periods”, Zaynab and her husband were told they were not on the list.

Her mother Lalah Ali-Faten, 52, from Prestwich, north Manchester, says her daughter is “putting on a brave face” but added that their food supply is “limited”, their drinking water is “depleted” and they are “washing in sea water”.

She said: “They (Ms Wandawi and her family members) went to the border, they were denied exit, they were informed that British nationals are not leaving today and their names are not on the list.

“(Ms Wandawi’s husband) said they’re waiting for names to be released so [they] can leave.

“They’re hoping it’s just a waiting game and they’ll get out as soon as possible but they went to the border, they queued up, they spoke to the officials and they said no British nationals are leaving today, (saying) ‘your names are not on the list’.”

Ms Ali-Faten said she was frustrated after having a “surge of hope” upon hearing that foreign nationals would be granted passage out of Gaza.

“It’s very frustrating when you hear that they are allowing foreign nationals to leave and then you have that surge of hope and then throughout the day when they tell you we’re not on the list, it’s really frustrating,” she said.

“[It] kind of gets me upset with the Foreign Office to be honest.

“Why are you not prioritising your citizens when other countries have managed to do the same for theirs?

"I just want my daughter back."

Zaynab Wandawi, 29, a British national born in Salford, Manchester Credit: Lalah Ali-Faten/PA

Ms Ali-Faten said she called the Foreign Office to ask whether UK nationals would be able to leave “and they didn’t know, they said we don’t have that information”.

She said that when she asked if there would be support waiting for them on the other side of the Egyptian border, she said she was informed by the Foreign Office that they “don’t have anybody there” and those leaving would have to “call a hotline number”.

“Well, if you’re in the middle of a desert, it’s not very comforting just to pick up the phone and call a hotline number,” she said.

“It’s not going to get you the support that you need once you leave a war zone, so I feel like they could do more.”

Ms Ali-Faten said Ms Wandawi and her family members are “hanging on” in the hopes that they will be allowed to leave as “each day comes”.

She added: “I’m grateful that they’re still alive, I’m grateful they’ve not been injured, they just deserve better support and care from the Foreign Office, to be honest.”

Trucks with humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip enter from Egypt's Rafah border crossing. Credit: Fatima Shbair/AP

According to the Foreign Office, the first British nationals have now left Gaza via the Rafah border crossing into Egypt.

A spokesperson for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said: “We have been working at every level of government to ensure the Rafah crossing could open and allow all British nationals to leave Gaza.

“The first British nationals have now crossed into Egypt where UK teams are providing them with assistance.

“We continue to work with Egyptian and Israeli authorities to ensure this mechanism to allow British nationals to leave continues unhindered for as long as necessary, whilst at the same time calling for sustained humanitarian assistance into Gaza.”