A British doctor trapped in Gaza with his young family after going there to visit his parents has called for UK parties to unite behind an immediate ceasefire, saying the way UK and world leaders were permitting the killing of Palestinian civilians, including children, would go down in history as “a stain on humanity”.

The doctor, who did not want to be named for fear of being targeted by the Israelis, arrived in Gaza with his wife and three teenage children three days before Hamas launched its murderous assault on 7 October, in which it killed about 1,300 Israelis and took more than 200 hostages.

Speaking hours before the Israelis imposed a communications blackout on Gaza on Friday, the doctor told the Observer that his and many other children who were all living in the same house had become so traumatised and terrified at night that they talked about wanting to be hit and killed by the next strike rather than have to wait until morning for the bombing to die down.

“When the F-16s come, it is really scary and traumatic. You hear them and then the hiss of the missile and then the big blast, and then you can smell the gunpowder.

“The children are there, terrified, saying exactly this: ‘Let them just kill us for this to end.’ They were saying this, including my daughter – they were talking and they were all agreed.” He said his own parents’ home had been destroyed early in the bombing and that his sister had grown so desperate during the nights of shelling that she had talked of imagining the deaths of family members and having to search for their body parts.

The doctor said he felt the people of Gaza “were being held hostage” and were in even greater danger than those held underground by the Israelis.

Such chilling testimony from a British citizen inside Gaza – who has already had to move five times – will add to pressure for politicians in the UK to demand restraint from the Israelis and to find ways to speed the supply of humanitarian aid.

In particular, Labour leader Keir Starmer was facing pressure this weekend from his own party to back a ceasefire. On Saturday, at least three more Labour frontbenchers broke ranks with the leadership by calling on both sides to stop the shelling, taking the total to about a dozen. Naz Shah, the shadow minister for crime reduction, said on X (formerly Twitter): “What we are seeing is not defence – it is disproportionate attacks on a civilian population … We cannot be silent.”

On Friday, London mayor Sadiq Khan and the leader of Scottish Labour, Anas Sarwar, both called for a ceasefire. More than 50 Labour MPs and 200 councillors have done the same.

Calls to back a total ceasefire have been resisted by the UK government and the US, both of which instead support temporary pauses to allow aid to reach those most in need. Labour has stuck close to the Foreign Office’s approach, seeking to show cross-party unity.

The NHS doctor compared the reactions of UK leaders to atrocities committed by Hamas with those after the IRA killed innocent people during the Troubles of the 1970s and 80s.

He asked why it was that politicians would never have responded to the IRA attacks by bombing civilian areas of Belfast, while they were prepared to see Gaza attacked. “[You cannot] imagine the British leaders saying: ‘The IRA is a terrorist organisation so we are going to kill all these people, all these civilians.’ I think this is really outrageous [how they can take a different view towards those in Gaza]. I don’t understand how they allow this to happen.”

Having initially found the Foreign Office unhelpful, the doctor contacted his own MP, Geraint Davies, who represents Swansea West. Davies has in turn written to both Rishi Sunak and Starmer highlighting his constituent’s plight and reinforcing calls for a ceasefire, saying that without one many more would die.

The doctor said he believed the estimates of 6,000 to 7,000 Palestinian dead so far were far too low. Many more were stuck beneath rubble and there was no means of digging them out, he said. And because so many had fled and been displaced, it was impossible to know how many were really missing.

The bombing, he claimed, had targeted civilian centres. “I have no doubt it is not random. Every target they strike, it is intentional, even bakeries or residential towers, where the number of casualties is very high.”

Homes that were normally occupied by 10 people were now crammed full of at least 70, and in some cases 100. The nights were spent awake, in terror, and the days trying to catch up on sleep or finding water and food, which were in scare supply.

“It is very difficult for us to sleep,” the doctor said. “Even if you are not listening at the window, you will see like a flash of light and then hear the blast. You will not sleep. So by the morning you will be really, really tired. You will just need to sleep.”

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