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Middle East

Volume 494: debated on Wednesday 24 June 2009

6. What recent assessment he has made of the humanitarian situation in Gaza; and if he will make a statement. (281797)

The conflict earlier this year intensified an already difficult humanitarian situation in Gaza. The pace of deterioration has slowed since the ceasefire in January, but the humanitarian situation remains extremely serious. Around 90 per cent. of Gazans still partly depend on food aid.

Success of the response effort continues to depend on opening the crossings from Israel to allow movement of materials and personnel into Gaza. The UK presses the Israeli Government regularly on this issue.

To say that the situation is serious is masterful understatement; it verges on the desperate. There can, however, be no improvement until the borders are opened. What are the Government doing to impress on the Israeli Government the need to let the basic foodstuffs and essentials of everyday life through the border crossing points and into Gaza?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: access through the border crossings from Israel into Gaza is essential to deal with development aid and to help complement the long-term peaceful political solution that is needed in that part of the world.

A number of British charities are active in Gaza, one of which is Interpal. Its ability to deliver development aid is being seriously constrained by its inability to access international clearing banking facilities. Will the Minister meet the charity to see—

Order. I apologise for interrupting the hon. Lady, but I am not sure whether she can be heard, and there are still far too many private conversations taking place.

Will the Minister meet representatives of Interpal to discuss the difficulties it is having, and to see what help the British Government can offer?

I understand that Interpal has had difficulties in accessing finance, and I am perfectly happy to meet my hon. Friend and the organisation to see what can be done to resolve them.

Part of the problem in Gaza is the rivalry between Fatah and Hezbollah. Does the Minister have any engagement in the discussions to try to keep the peace, and has Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu given any assurances in respect of Gaza in his comments about a two-state solution?

I have had no direct discussions with those two parties representing the Palestinian people, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recently announced support for a two-state solution, which we think will deal with this situation once and for all.