Israel & Gaza Statement
Israel & Gaza Statement

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza

Last week, Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Minister for International Development met with the chief of staff to the UNRWA Commissioner General and, separately, with UK Government officials to understand the nature of the allegations against 12 UNRWA employees.

These are serious allegations and the UK must ensure it has robust processes regarding the use of UK aid but it would be unconscionable if anything were to stand in the way of aid reaching Gaza in the midst of this crisis.

Lisa Nandy discussed this issue directly with her counterpart, the UK Cabinet Minister for International Development, when the allegations were made and again last week. He has confirmed that the next UK allocation to UNRWA is due in the next financial year.

The UN review, which will be led by former French foreign minister, Catherine Colonna will publish its interim report at the end of March.

Labour is therefore seeking assurances that there wil be no interruption to the flow of UK funding to UNRWA in the next financial year.

There are other aid agencies working in Gaza but the role of UNRWA is and remains critical to the humanitarian effort in Gaza and across the entire region. More people are now dying from hunger and thirst in Gaza than from bombs and bullets. If UNRWA’s vital work is disrupted, the clear consequence will be further death and suffering.

Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy, the Shadow Minister for the Middle East Wayne David, and Lisa Nandy have consistently raised this with their UK government counterparts in the Commons.

Humanitarian Access to Gaza

The primary challenges of getting aid into and through Gaza remain frustratingly unresolved. Before Christmas, David Lammy and Lisa Nandy visited Egypt to understand the limitations of the Rafah Crossing. It is clear that the infrastructure and processes at Rafah are insufficient for the amount of aid that is needed in Gaza and Labour therefore pushed strongly for the Kerem Shalom to be opened, which has had some impact.

Lisa Nandy was in the region again last month to meet with ministers from the Israeli Government, the Palestinian Authority and the Jordanian Government, as well as UNICEF and UNRWA. They discussed the urgent need to open more land borders into Gaza and to establish genuinely safe routes through to northern Gaza. Across the entire Gaza strip the situation remains critical.

In regular meetings with UK government officials Labour has also been pushing for greater use of Ashdod Port, UK air drops into Gaza and the establishment of a British field hospital within Gaza.

We have also raised, on a number of occasions, the situation of children – especially those who are now orphaned or separated from family – and the need for a children’s plan. These are complex operations, but the UK has some of the most skilled technical aid specialists in the world and it is clear we can and must do more.

During this crisis, I have met with British Palestinian families and with British families of hostages held by Hamas. Keir Starmer, Angela Rayner, David Lammy and Lisa Nandy also met with British Palestinian families recently who raised a number of distressing issues, including the need for children with urgent medical needs to be temporarily evacuated for surgery. We are pursuing this, and the other issues they raised, with the UK Government as a matter of urgency.

We remain acutely aware that the only way to resolve the humanitarian crisis is a sustainable ceasefire, the return of all hostages and an immediate international effort to flood Gaza with aid.

Keir Starmer, David Lammy and Lisa Nandy have discussed this with counterparts in Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Oman, the United Nations and the United States in recent weeks. Together Labour is doing everything it can to bring an immediate end to the suffering and achieve a lasting peace.

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