Humza Yousaf said he has not heard from his in-laws in Gaza as the territory comes under heavy bombardment from Israeli armed forces.

The First Minister said on Saturday he had been unable to contact his wife’s mother and her husband after communications were cut off as bombing of the Gaza Strip intensified.

Elizabeth El-Nakla and her husband Maged travelled to the region before the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 and have been trapped since Israel’s retaliation.

Israel is expanding its ground operation in Gaza with infantry and armoured vehicles, military officials have said this morning.

Writing on X, Mr Yousaf said: “Thank you for your good wishes, I’m afraid we have not heard from my in-laws.

“My concern is for all the innocent people suffering for a crime they did not commit. If you did not vote for peace, while children are dying, then I do not know how you sleep at night.”

Mr Yousaf’s remarks come just hours after it emerged he had written to every political leader in the UK to urge them to back a ceasefire in Gaza.

In a letter understood to have been sent on Thursday evening, he said Israel has a right to defend itself following the attacks but added action must be taken now to stop the “staggering humanitarian disaster” unfolding in Gaza before it becomes “cataclysmic”.

Mr Yousaf said: “The abhorrent terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas on October 7 must be unequivocally condemned, and I will continue to join you in doing so. Hamas must release immediately and unconditionally all hostages and cease its missile attacks on Israel.

READ MORE: Fuel fears as doctors raise concerns for premature babies in Gaza

“The killing of innocent civilians can never be justified, wherever it occurs. Israel, like every other country, has a right to protect itself from attack, but in doing so it must comply with international law.

“Food, water, fuel, and medicine are being restricted, with limited humanitarian supplies – nowhere near enough – being allowed in.

“The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) – the largest humanitarian agency working in Gaza – has warned that unless fuel is allowed into Gaza immediately, the agency will be forced to halt all operations as of today.

“I am, therefore, writing to ask for your support in helping to stop the staggering humanitarian disaster we are witnessing, which is set to get even worse."

The Herald:

The letter continues: “We should stand together and unite in unequivocally calling on all parties to commit to an immediate ceasefire to allow a humanitarian corridor to be opened, so that lifesaving supplies can get into Gaza and innocent civilians who want to leave be given safe passage out.

“The situation in Gaza is at the point of being cataclysmic.

“All of us must do everything we can to prevent that. There must be no more dithering, or delay, together we must call for an immediate ceasefire.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, the leaders of the major parties in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the conveners of the Westminster Foreign Affairs Select Committee and Holyrood’s External Affairs Committee all received Mr Yousaf’s letter.

Earlier on Saturday, the military had released videos showing columns of armoured vehicles moving slowly in open sandy areas of Gaza, the first visual confirmation of ground troops.

Previously, troops had conducted brief nightly ground incursions before returning to Israel.

The move is a further escalation in Israel’s campaign to crush the territory’s ruling militant group Hamas after its bloody incursion in southern Israel three weeks ago and a new sign that Israel is moving closer to an all-out invasion of Gaza.

Late on Friday, Mr Hagari had said ground forces were “expanding their activity” in Gaza and “acting with great force to achieve the objectives of the war”.

Israel has amassed hundreds of thousands of troops along the border.

Overnight into Saturday, warplanes struck 150 tunnels and underground bunkers in northern Gaza, the military said.

The Herald:

Hamas’s extensive underground installations, many of them located under Gaza City in the north of the territory, are seen as key targets of the offensive.

As part of the stepped-up bombardment, Israel also knocked out communications and created a near-blackout of information, largely cutting off the 2.3 million people in besieged Gaza from contact with the outside world.

Already plunged into darkness after most electricity was cut off weeks ago, Palestinians were thrown into isolation, huddling in homes and shelters with food and water supplies running out.

Attempts to reach Gaza residents by phone were largely unsuccessful early on Saturday.

Explosions from continuous airstrikes lit up the sky over Gaza City for hours after nightfall on Friday.

Palestinian telecom provider Paltel said the bombardment caused “complete disruption” of internet, cellular and landline services.

The cut-off meant that casualties from strikes and details of ground incursions could not immediately be known. Some satellite phones continued to function.

Relatives outside Gaza panicked after their messaging chats with families inside suddenly went dead and calls stopped going through.

The Herald:

Wafaa Abdul Rahman, director of a feminist organisation based in the West Bank city of Ramallah, said she had not heard for hours from family in central Gaza.

She said: “We’ve been seeing these horrible things and massacres when it’s live on TV, so now what will happen when there’s a total blackout?”

Israel says its strikes target Hamas fighters and infrastructure, and that the militants operate from among civilians, putting them in danger.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf shares Gaza hospital video of children

The Hamas media centre reported heavy night-time clashes with Israeli forces at several places, including what it said was an Israeli incursion east of the refugee camp of Bureij in the central Gaza Strip.

Asked about the report, the Israeli military reiterated early on Saturday that it had been carrying out targeted raids and expanding strikes with the aim of “preparing the ground for future stages of the operation”.

The Palestinian death toll in Gaza has soared past 7,300, more than 60% of them minors and women, according to the territory’s health ministry.

A blockade on Gaza has meant dwindling supplies and the UN warned that its aid operation helping hundreds of thousands of people was “crumbling” amid near-depleted fuel.

More than 1,400 people were killed in Israel during Hamas’s October 7 attack, according to the Israeli government, and at least 229 hostages were taken into Gaza.

Among those killed were at least 310 soldiers, according to the military.