Sheffield student’s heartbreak over Gaza conflict

Malaka Shwaikh, a Palestinian student at the University of Sheffield
Malaka Shwaikh, a Palestinian student at the University of Sheffield
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A Sheffield student from Gaza has spoken of her fears for her family as the deadly conflict with Israel continues.

Malaka Shwaikh, a 23-year-old global politics and law student at the University of Sheffield, said many of her close neighbours have died, while her family were evacuated from their home moments before the area they lived in was bombed.

She says the family do not know whether their house is still standing and contact with them is growing increasingly difficult.

Hundreds of air strikes have taken place since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge, which it says is aimed at stopping rocket attacks by Palestinian movement Hamas. More than 1,800 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have died and over 485,000 have fled their homes. A total of 66 Israelis, mostly soldiers, have also died.

Malaka moved to Sheffield last September and is due to stay for another year after being elected as education officer at the university’s student union.

She said much of her family’s hometown Shijaia has been destroyed and she fears for the safety of her parents and five sisters and two brothers who evacuated their home shortly before bombing started in their area. She said she is aware of 18 close neighbours in Gaza who have died.

Malaka has lived through previous conflicts but said the latest fighting appears to be the most serious to date.

“This is the worst one. Even my family when I can talk to them say we can’t imagine that we will survive,” she said.

“We don’t know what has happened to our home. But I have seen pictures of my area and it was just rubble.”

Malaka has been blogging about her family’s experiences in a bid to raise awareness of the conflict’s human cost.

“My family are in danger of death. Sometimes I really need to write and talk about this to feel a kind of relief that I’m not helpless.”

Malaka said she does not know when she will be able to return home again. “I don’t know if I will be able to go to Gaza. I just really wish to see my family now.”