AN appeal has been launched to help an Oxford Brookes graduate who lost his family in an attack in the Gaza strip to return to the city to finish his studies.
Eight members of Hassan Alhallaq’s family, including his heavily pregnant wife Samar and two young sons, Qinan, six, and Saji, four, were killed when Israeli forces bombed his sister’s flat in Gaza on July 20.
In 2012, Mr Alhallaq won a scholarship at Oxford Brookes University designed to support one student from Gaza each year. He achieved a Masters before returning to Gaza to work for the Bank of Palestine.
After the attack, which left him with a fractured right thigh, the university has launched an appeal to fly him home and allow him to do a PhD.
Speaking to the Oxford Mail from his hospital bed in East Jerusalem, Mr Alhallaq said: “It was my dream to further my education in the UK and I loved my time in Oxford. I was amazed at how friendly everyone was, how they would always smile at you and how everyone respects the rule of law.
“I am so glad my sons were able to come and see that for a few months. It makes me feel I did something for them before they passed away.”
Scenes of emotion at the funerals.
Mr Alhallaq spoke for the first time about the lethal attack and said it was impossible to escape the threat of death in Gaza.
He said: “The bombing and rocket attacks can be heard all over Gaza City, everyone who lives there is scared.
“Most people who live there have tried to get to the lower floors of buildings because if they stay on higher floors there is a much bigger chance they will die if the building is hit.
“Nobody is confident there will be a solution to this crisis.”
Mr Alhallaq and his family fled their home in North Gaza on the first day of the fighting because the area had been heavily bombed in the last two outbreaks of violence.
Qinan and Saji's mother Samar.
He said: “We stayed there for one week and then shelling started to come closer to there as well so we decided we had to make another move.
“The Israelis told us we would be safer if we went into the centre of the city so we moved to my sister’s flat in the part of the city known as Al-Rimal.
“I stayed there with my sister for about three nights and then the rest of my family joined us.
“We finally felt safe but on July 20 we were preparing our Ramadan breakfast at about 7pm when the flat was attacked.
“I was sitting on the sofa beside my father and my brother when it happened. The flat was filled with smoke and I was suddenly aware of a very severe pain in my right leg. When I looked into the centre of the flat I knew my wife and children were dead.
“My brother had to carry me from the rubble and take me to hospital because I couldn’t move. If he hadn’t helped me I would have died there.”
Sons Qinan and Saji.
Mr Alhallaq also lost his mother Suad, his sister Hala and her husband Mohammed and daughter Hani.
A PhD at Brookes costs about £39,000 over three years plus living costs and plane tickets back to the UK.
To donate send a cheque to Oxford Brookes University, with Hassan written on the reverse, to: DARO, Oxford Brookes University, OX3 0BP.
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