Israel 'blocking aid getting into Gaza', Tory foreign affairs committee chief claims, as food begins to run out

8 March 2024, 21:21 | Updated: 9 March 2024, 10:03

Gaza residents are desperate for food
Gaza residents are desperate for food. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

The head of the foreign affairs committee has claimed that Israel is blocking aid getting into Gaza, amid a "grave" humanitarian crisis in the territory.

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Alicia Kearns, who has recently returned from Gaza, said that Israel could open more crossings into the territory to let more aid through.

The US announced a new pier in the Mediterranean to help get aid directly into Gaza, which the UK said on Friday that it would join.

Ms Kearns warned that children were drinking from puddles and people were living on animal feed.

Reports have emerged that 20 people have died of hunger and malnutrition, most of whom were children.

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Alicia Kearns: 'Israel is blocking aid'

Ms Kearns told LBC's Tom Swarbrick: "I've just returned from the border with Palestine where I was yesterday. In February, there were four days five days where absolutely no trucks got in.

"And the reality is... Israelis have the choice, they can open more crossings now, they could open them for more hours.

Asked if Israel was blocking Aid getting into Gaza, Ms Kearns said: "Sadly, yes."

She added: "If you remember, before the crisis, there were what six to 800 trucks a day going in to provide support and life saving aid for people as well as all the commercial options that were allowing people to buy and sell and to have their own markets and their own economies.

"All of that has stopped, or massively reduced down to a maximum of 123 trucks a day, 70 trucks a day. It is about desperately getting in the aid that's needed.

Alicia Kearns
Alicia Kearns. Picture: Alamy

"You know, children are drinking from puddles. There are people living off animal feed. I have met families in hospitals over the last two days where they just had the most horrifying stories about what how they are living and the humanitarian crisis is grave."

Ms Kearns added: "We need an urgent vaccination programme for cholera for scabies for tetanus for different things like this. There are very few hospitals left standing, people are dying and the famine is extraordinary."

A spokesperson for the Israeli government, Eylon Levy, told LBC News: "There are no limits on the amount of humanitarian aid that can enter Gaza; food, water, medicine and shelter equipment. We have excess capacity and the Kerem Shalom crossing. Excess capacity at the Netanya crossing. And we encourage states to send more aid.

"Last week we reached a record 270 trucks entering Gaza in a single day. In fact, and I know this will sound surprising, there are more food trucks entering Gaza now than there were before the war.

"The average daily entry of food truck before the war was 70. Over the last two weeks we've had an average 102."

US President Joe Biden used his State of the Union address on Thursday to announce that American troops would establish a temporary port on the Gaza coast aimed at increasing the flow of aid into the territory.

The move follows mounting concern about the level of aid getting into Gaza over land, with international bodies warning of an impending famine if current restrictions continue.

Lord Cameron on Friday said the UK would be working with the US to provide aid by sea.

Rafah
Rafah. Picture: Alamy

He tweeted: "People in Gaza are in desperate humanitarian need.

"Alongside the US, the UK and partners have announced we will open a maritime corridor to deliver aid directly to Gaza.

"We continue to urge Israel to allow more trucks into Gaza as the fastest way to get aid to those who need it."

The temporary harbour "will take months to stand up", Lord Cameron said, as he urged Israel to "promise today" to open its functioning Ashdod Port in the meantime to where aid could be shipped from Cyprus and driven into Gaza.

The UK will rule "in the coming days" if Israel is breaking international humanitarian law, according to the Foreign Secretary, who said the judgment would dictate whether Britain stops arms sales to the country.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron
British Foreign Secretary David Cameron. Picture: Alamy

The UK contribution to the maritime corridor is not expected to involve the deployment of British personnel.

Downing Street said on Friday the UK had been involved in planning and surveying for the pontoon and would now be "working with partners to operationalise our maritime aid corridor from Cyprus".

In a joint statement with the US, the European Commission, the UAE and Cyprus, the UK described the situation in Gaza as "dire".

According to the statement, Cyprus had taken the lead on establishing a mechanism for sending aid to Gaza by sea securely, which the partners would now build on to deliver "significant aid", working in conjunction with the UN's senior humanitarian and reconstruction co-ordinator for Gaza.

The statement said: "The delivery of humanitarian assistance directly to Gaza by sea will be complex, and our nations will continue to assess and adjust our efforts to ensure we deliver aid as effectively as possible.

Gaza pier is 'delaying tactic' by Israel's 'bigger brother', caller tells Shelagh Fogarty

"This maritime corridor can, and must, be part of a sustained effort to increase the flow of humanitarian aid and commercial commodities into Gaza through all possible routes.

"We will continue to work with Israel to expand deliveries by land, insisting that it facilitate more routes and open additional crossings to get more aid to more people."

British aid packages have previously been air-dropped into Gaza in a joint operation with the Jordanian military, and the Government has continued to work on finding alternative routes for supplies to reach the territory.

The UK Government has also called for a "humanitarian pause" in the fighting to enable aid to get into Gaza and hostages held by Hamas to be released.

Hamas on Thursday left Cairo without a deal on a Gaza ceasefire and hostage release, dampening hopes mediators will broker an agreement before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan expected on Sunday.

Israel based journalist gives 'Gaza ceasefire' update

Lord Cameron said "there's still a possibility" of a deal before Ramadan, but added: "It's more of a possibility than a probability, because the two sides seem to be some way away."

Amnesty International UK chief executive Sacha Deshmukh said: "The creation of a maritime aid 'corridor' is a woefully slow response to the dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the UK is once again failing to show anywhere near the required level of urgency in how it responds to this calamitous situation.

"Whether or not the seaport scheme goes ahead, the UK should be redoubling its efforts to press Israel into opening existing land crossings for aid deliveries, while also demanding that Israel end its 17-year-long blockade of Gaza, which is an act of collective punishment.

"Lord Cameron must now break the pattern whereby the UK supports piecemeal measures like the seaport project while failing to lead on the bigger picture - which is that the UK is still failing to support an immediate ceasefire, is still allowing arms transfers to Israel, and is still failing to fully support international justice measures."

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