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RAF Aid Flights to the Middle East

Volume 741: debated on Monday 20 November 2023

Defence assets continue to be ready to supply humanitarian support to the region. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the delivery of aid is impeded by the many challenges around Gaza, but so far we have airlifted 51 tonnes of aid to the country.

As I have said previously, I want to see an end to the violence in the middle east, although I acknowledge that neither Israel nor Hamas agreed to an immediate ceasefire. While negotiations to deliver an enduring peace are ongoing, we must urgently accelerate the delivery of aid via the RAF to alleviate human suffering on the ground. Can the Secretary of State explain why, within two weeks of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, nearly 100 tonnes of aid was delivered there, yet since the Israel-Hamas war broke out more than a month ago, only 50 tonnes has been delivered by the RAF?

I can. The difference is a war zone. When I said that we had delivered “to the country”, I meant, of course, to Egypt. From there we have to get the aid across the Rafah crossing, which, for all the reasons of complexity, is not always open or available. There are many restrictions to getting that aid in, but I am working very hard on that. The problem is not a lack of resource; we have put in £30 million, more than doubling the existing £27 million, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there are further flights leaving later this month.

For more than a month we have witnessed a distressing humanitarian disaster unfolding in Gaza. It is welcome that the RAF is flying UK humanitarian aid to the region, but so far we have seen only three RAF flights. When will the Government increase the number of flights and the amount of aid given to Palestinians, who have suffered so much and who deserve, at the very least, the basic essentials to try to survive?

The issue is not getting the aid to the region; we could fly more aircraft. The issue is getting the aid into Gaza itself, and in that regard we have the problem of Hamas, a terrorist organisation not in the least bit interested in looking after the citizens of Gaza, and, of course, the problem of the Rafah crossing, which is opened and closed on a fairly arbitrary basis. However, I can assure the hon. Lady that we are working very hard with all the different bodies and Governments in the region to get more of that aid in as quickly as possible. The capacity constraint is not flying it to the region.