Sheffield mum who lost son, 16, to cancer speaks of 'nightmare' as surviving son is stranded in Gaza
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A distraught Sheffield mother whose teenage son died of cancer now fears for the life of her surviving son, who is stranded in Gaza.
Wesam Farah endured the heartbreak of losing her youngest son Qayis to cancer, aged just 16.
He should have turned 18 on Monday, October 16, and she planned to celebrate his life with her surviving son, Qasem, a 21-year-old biomedical science student at the University of Manchester.
But Qasem is stuck in Gaza, amid the aerial bombardment by Israel, having travelled there in September with his father Musheir El-Farra to seek solace from his extended family as he struggles to come to terms with his younger brother's death.
'I just want him back here with me'
Wesam lives in Heeley, where she raised her two sons after coming to the UK in 2001. She told The Star how every day is a waking 'nightmare' as she follows the rising death toll in Gaza while waiting anxiously for news from Qasem and the rest of her family there, including her mother.
"I'm so anxious and so frustrated, and so worried and so scared. Nowhere in Gaza is safe at the moment because they're bombing everywhere, and the borders are closed," said Wesam, who is a doctor.
"Qasem texts me when he has access to the internet but I'm not able to hear his voice because of the problems with the networks, which means there's often no coverage at all. Sometimes he's unable to charge his phone, too, because of the power cuts.
"I thought it would be good for him to go there and be with family because he's still grieving the loss of his brother. I never thought it would turn into the nightmare it has done.
"I lost one son to cancer and Qasem's the only son I have left but now I don't know if he'll ever be able to get home safely with his father. I just want him back here with me. I want this to stop. It's like a nightmare.
'He has to shake himself to know he's still alive'
"Qasem's told me he doesn't sleep at night because the sound of the bombs is so loud. Wherever you are, he says, it feels like the bomb's hitting the next room. Every time one drops he feels like he's died and he has to shake himself to know he's still alive. He says the sky's orange at night and black with smoke in the day, and he can hear children screaming.
"The whole world is watching what's happening in Gaza. It's a tragedy and nobody's doing anything about it. No child deserves what's happening, no civilian deserves it. They just need to stop the bombing.
"I can't sleep at night and if I do get to sleep I have nightmares."
Qasem and his father are in southern Gaza, in Khan Younis. There are no flights out of Gaza and Wesam says they have been told by the British Embassy there is no guarantee Egypt will let them in if they make it to the border, which they must do 'at your own risk'.
What is the UK government doing?
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office told The Star it is working hard to support those affected by the crisis in Gaza and is advising British nationals there to register their presence on the FCDO's Travel Advice page.
It said it has been keeping in close contact with British nationals in Gaza and will continue to update them on the latest status of the crossing.
"We are working with neighbouring countries on land evacuations for our citizens in Gaza and the West Bank," it added.
"Any British Nationals in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories in need of help should contact +972 (0)3 725 1222 or +972 (2) 5414100. If you experience technical difficulties or if you are in the UK, call +44 20 7008 5000."
What has Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh said?
Louise Haigh, the Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley, said: "The situation in Gaza is horrific with more than two million people trapped and ordered to evacuate with no way to leave. We have been clear that international law must be adhered to at all times and civilian lives protected, but tragically we are seeing hospitals and other civilian sites targeted.
"Clearly for my constituents the immediate priority is to evacuate any British citizens and I am working with the Foreign Office to communicate with Qasem and to pass advice for safe travel on as quickly as it becomes available. At present opportunities to travel are limited but the government must work with Israel and Egypt to get British citizens to safety as quickly as possible."