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Gaza: Humanitarian Situation

Volume 749: debated on Tuesday 30 April 2024

14. What recent assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. (902576)

We have trebled our aid commitment in the past year and we are doing all we can to get more aid to Gaza by land, air and sea.

The Colonna review was given no evidence to back up claims by the Israeli Government that UNRWA staff were involved in the 7 October attacks. Other countries have already restored funding to the aid agency, so it can continue its work feeding tens of thousands of people who are starving in Gaza, including innocent babies who are dying without milk. Will the Minister commit to refunding today? Or will he continue to risk UK complicity in using famine as a weapon of war?

I have set out the process by which we will judge how and when to restore funding to UNRWA, but the situation has improved in recent weeks. The hon. Member will have seen that fuel for bakeries has been restored. We are pressing for the activation of the water pipeline and, over the past week, we have been averaging more than 200 trucks each day. Progress has been made, but there needs to be a lot more progress, and Britain will continue to press for it.

When Putin invaded Ukraine, the people of Blyth, Cramlington and Seaton Valley came together and generously gave what they could spare. With help from local companies, such as Moody Logistics and Storage in Cramlington, we were able to ensure that aid reached those who had lost their homes and their belongings. What plans does my right hon. Friend’s Department have in place to get aid from the UK to Gaza?

I pay tribute to the good people of Blyth, Cramlington and Seaton Valley for their generosity, and to my hon. Friend for helping to channel that goodwill so constructively. His constituents will want to support reputable non-governmental organisations and charities working to support humanitarian relief in Gaza.

Israel has forced more than 1 million Palestinians to flee to Rafah, claiming it to be a safe zone, yet for months the Israeli military have been bombing Palestinians there relentlessly and, according to the UN, killing mostly women and children. Now it is planning a ground invasion that will lead to carnage. Does the Minister agree that President Biden could stop this with one phone call, and will he press him to do so?

President Biden has been very heavily engaged in this matter. As the hon. Member knows, both the American and British Governments have pressed Israel not to launch an all-out assault on Rafah for the reasons that she set out. The shadow Foreign Secretary rightly said that he hopes that Hamas will accept the current deal on the table, and I agree with him.

An Israel ground invasion in Rafah is probable within days, leading to 1.5 million displaced Palestinians with no safe place to shelter. Children in Gaza have been starved at the fastest rate that the world has ever seen, and Members across the House, including myself, have come here time and again asking for something to be done in terms of delivering aid and pushing for a ceasefire. Time and again, the Minister says that we are trying, trying, trying, but clearly trying is not working. What will the Government do to move the dial and stop children dying?

The hon. Member will have seen the 6 April maritime announcement and she will know that Britain is ramping up the delivery of aid by land, sea and air. She will, I hope, be aware that we have a naval ship standing by with £9.7 million of aid and logistics equipment. There have also been 10 air drops already from the Royal Air Force; an 11th one is expected today. Therefore, the British Government are doing everything they possibly can to move the dial, as she requests.

As the Minister will know, it is not only Governments and NGOs supporting Palestinians across Israel, the west bank and Gaza, but a lot of charities. I have been contacted by one such charity, ABCD, which operates a centre for disabled Palestinian children in the Nur Shams refugee camp. It tells me that its centre has been raided and destroyed not once, but several times, by the Israeli army—not by settlers. What more can the Government do to protect the facilities and personnel of British charities operating in the Palestinian territories?

My right hon. Friend will know that we do everything that we can in that respect, but if he is able to give me some specific details about that particular charity and what has befallen it, I will look into it.

The Prime Minister has identified getting aid in and getting hostages out as two key priorities for the UK Government. Israel is facilitating aid getting into Gaza by air, land and sea, with 468 trucks entering the area in a single day. We are seeing real progress on aid; when will we see progress on hostages, too?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. We need to see breathing space so that we can get the hostages out and more aid in; in spite of what she says, the aid that is getting in at the moment is not sufficient. That is precisely the policy of the British Government, and we will continue to pursue it with all vigour.

Given that the Colonna report makes clear that donors should have confidence in UNRWA and that Australia, France, Germany, Sweden, Canada, Japan and Denmark have all restored funding, and with Gaza facing famine, I ask the Deputy Foreign Secretary again: when will the Government do what Labour has called for and restore full funding to UNRWA?

As I have set out, we are looking at all those reports and we will make a decision in our own time. Britain is not falling short in that respect, because we are currently fully funded on all the earlier commitments we made. We will look at the Office of Internal Oversight Services report and the UNRWA reaction to it. We are aware of non-traditional donors and private donations coming in, and UNRWA is fully funded until the end of May. When we reach our conclusion, I will be sure to inform the House of it.