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Middle East

Volume 450: debated on Tuesday 10 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps he is taking to ensure that humanitarian access is provided for aid agencies in the Middle East. (89904)

During and since the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel I called for all parties to allow humanitarian access, including during my visit to Lebanon the day after the ceasefire came into force. From the outset DFID has also provided resources to enable UN agencies to provide much-needed logistical capacity, through convoys and shipping, to allow relief supplies to reach those most in need. At the Stockholm Early Recovery Conference on 31 August I and others called for the lifting of the air and sea blockade by Israel. Israel announced the lifting of the blockade on 7 September. DFID also provided £1.5 million to assist efforts to remove dangerous unexploded ordnance to ease access for returnees and humanitarian aid workers and emergency bridging to help assistance reach those in need.

DFID has seconded a specialist to assist the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs with their work to monitor and facilitate movement and access in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPts). The European Commission (EC), on behalf of the EU and through their chairmanship of the Task Force on Project Implementation, makes regular representations to the Israeli authorities on access issues.

The British embassy in Tel Aviv made frequent representations to the Israeli Government about the importance of ensuring humanitarian access during the Israel-Lebanon conflict. It also continues regularly to raise issues relating to access and movement into the oPts.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what estimate he has made of the number of child casualties in the Middle East conflict; and if he will make a statement. (89906)

I have been asked to reply.

In Lebanon, the UN estimate that one third of the 1,187 people killed, and one third of the 4,398 injured in the conflict were children.

In Israel, government figures indicate 43 Israeli civilians including seven minors were killed during the conflict. 4,262 civilians were treated in hospitals for injuries. Of these, 33 were seriously wounded, 68 moderately and 1,388 lightly. Another 2,773 were treated for shock and anxiety. There is no breakdown of how many of the injured were children.

These statistics demonstrate the futility and horror of this conflict and reinforce the need to find a lasting and peaceful solution to the conflict in the Middle East.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the delivery of humanitarian aid in the Middle East conflict. (89912)

During the recent conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, despite calls from the UK Government and other international partners for all parties to allow unfettered humanitarian access, it was extremely difficult for agencies to operate effectively. The ceasefire quickly eased the situation and a much worse humanitarian crisis was averted. The aid agencies have been working hard to deliver essential relief. We will undertake a monitoring visit in October to assess the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance by agencies supported by DFID. It is important now to ensure that UN Security Council Resolution 1701 is fully implemented so there is no return to conflict.

In the occupied Palestinian territories (oPts), the main obstacle to effective delivery of humanitarian aid is access. The closure regime and restrictions on movement in the West Bank and, particularly, Gaza frequently hamper the delivery of humanitarian aid. The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) reports that it has incurred more than US$490,000 in staff cost and US$1.3 million in excess storage and other fees due to restrictions imposed by Israel on UNRWA’s personnel and movement of humanitarian goods in 2005.

DFID has seconded two experts to work with the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the oPts. They are supporting OCHA’s work on humanitarian access, assisting with monitoring the humanitarian situation and helping to develop a more strategic 2007 humanitarian appeal.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the needs of refugees and internally displaced people from the situation in the Middle East. (89913)

Having visited Beirut to assess the situation for myself the priority for our humanitarian effort is now to ensure safe return for displaced citizens. To this end, DFID has provided over £1.5 million from our £22.3 million commitment for mine and ordnance awareness and clearance programmes. We are supporting NGOs and UN Agencies providing essential sanitation, health and hygiene supplies to refugees and continue to press for safe and secure access for humanitarian convoys to reach those most in need.

A further priority is to repair basic civilian infrastructure, namely water and bridges, to assist Southern Lebanon’s recovery from the conflict and to help displaced persons return home. The UK’s multilateral contributions to the EU and UN emergency funds will assist the reconstruction process, and work erecting the first UK supplied prefabricated bridge began on 13 September.

The UK responded positively and quickly to the crisis and aid has been getting through. As long as the current ceasefire holds the humanitarian situation in Lebanon is manageable. Maintaining the ceasefire will require the full implementation of UNSCR 1701.

The situation in Gaza remains difficult. 7,000 people have requested shelter from the UN in response to Israeli shelling and at the height of military operations more than 5,000 were being supported by the UN. On 27 August, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) closed the schools which were being used as relocation centres and gave refugees a relocation allowance. UNRWA is still providing relocation allowance for 800 families. Other agencies (especially the International Committee of the Red Cross) are providing tents, water and other services for 300 people.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development in what projects the UK is involved in (a) Israel and (b) the Palestinian territories. (90137)

The information is as follows.

(a) Israel

The Global Conflict Prevention Pool (GCPP), which is jointly managed by DFID, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Ministry of Defence (MOD), is providing funding for the following projects:

Peace Now—Settlement Watch.

Ir Amin—advocacy project on status of Jerusalem.

Council for Peace and Security—advocacy work on Israeli separation.

Economic Co-operation Foundation—Gaza disengagement.

HaMoKed/B’Tselem—freedom of movement for Palestinians.

(b) Palestinian Territories

DFID support in the Palestinian Territories is focused on three objectives: supporting prospects for peace, improved delivery of humanitarian and development assistance, and helping to build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions for a future Palestinian state. DFID has provided £176 million since 2001, plus our share of European Community aid. Until a government is formed with a position that reflects the principles set out by the Quartet, UK Government aid will be channelled outside the Palestinian Authority. Current DFID projects and programmes are as follows:

Support for Palestinian refugees through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

Support for Palestinian basic needs through the Temporary International Mechanism. This EU initiative is providing social allowances, supplies and operating costs to maintain essential services. It was recently extended until 31 December 2006.

Assistance to the Negotiations Affairs Department to support progress towards a negotiated, two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Assistance to build Palestinian anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist finance capacity.

Building the capacity of the Palestinian Authority (currently suspended) and civil society organisations on governance and public administration reform.

Improved analysis of PA institutional development.

Strategic interventions to support a peace process and economic development.

The UK Government, through the GCPP, also supports the following projects in the Palestinian Territories:

Military Liaison Officer for the Palestinians.

Training Needs Analysis for National Security Forces (currently suspended).

Military Advisor to the Special Envoy for Disengagement (currently suspended).

Close protection support for President of the Palestinian Authority.

Palestinian National Security Doctrine website.

Palestinian Security Force Assessment—with US Security Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (currently suspended).

Palestinian media activities in support of the Roadmap (jointly funded with USAID).

Financial Liaison Officer to the Palestinian Authority (currently suspended).

Water Pollution Management in Israel, Jordan and Palestinian Authority.