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Palestinian Authority

Volume 474: debated on Wednesday 2 April 2008

We are gravely concerned about the situation in Gaza. The closure of Gaza’s crossings is contributing to the collapse of the economy. There are shortages of essential humanitarian supplies such as medicines, foodstuffs and hearing aids. Restrictions on supplies of fuel and electricity have led to widespread power cuts and water shortages. While we fully understand Israel’s security concerns, we do not support the decision to close Gaza crossings. The Foreign Secretary and I have called on Israel to open them, and to lift all restrictions immediately on humanitarian supplies and electricity. While resolving the humanitarian situation is in the hands of the parties concerned, we are doing what we can to help alleviate the situation.

In order to address the humanitarian situation, to support the Palestinian economy and to meet the urgent funding needs of the Palestinian Authority, we intend to provide an additional £30 million in support to the Palestinians in 2007-08, taking our total contribution to £63.6 million for this financial year. This is part of the pledge of up to £243 million over three years, linked to political progress, which I announced at the Paris donor conference last December. The UK is leading the international community in following through on its Paris pledges promptly, providing funding when it is most needed before other pledges come through.

This new funding will strengthen the Palestinian Authority’s ability to take forward reform at a critical time. It will help pay teachers, doctors and engineers, keep basic services running and meet the budget shortfall facing the government of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. It will directly benefit Gazans, as well as Palestinians living in the West Bank.

All funding will be delivered through reputable international institutions and safeguards will be put in place to ensure it is properly used. Our support for the Palestinian Authority will be routed through the World Bank and the EC’s new aid fund known as “PEGASE”.

DFID’s support for Gazans includes our agreement to provide £100 million over five years to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). UNRWA provides healthcare, housing, education and food to Palestinian refugees across the Middle East. Seventy per cent. of people in Gaza are refugees who will benefit directly from this assistance.

I also announced to the House on 12 March that we will provide £2 million to the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) as a further response to the humanitarian situation in Gaza.