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British aid is still largely blocked from entering Gaza, the watchdog says

Despite diplomatic efforts, British aid is still largely denied access to Gaza, the development watchdog said in a report released on Tuesday.

The UK has committed an additional £70 million in humanitarian funding to the Palestinian Territories since the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas in October 2023 and has held high-level diplomatic discussions to encourage Israel to lift restrictions on access for humanitarian aid. said AidImpact.

But at land crossings, Israeli military nationals assist convoys with extensive inspections to prevent the delivery of “dual use” items that could benefit Hamas or be used as weapons, resulting in trucks being regularly delayed or turned back. the ICAI said. .

The agency said it had received reports that stone fruit had been rejected because it was deemed dual-use.

“While Britain has significantly increased aid to Gaza in response to the crisis, it is clear that very little is reaching those who urgently need it, with restrictions on access to land – the only way to transport sufficient aid – are increasing and the situation for care providers is becoming increasingly dire. extremely dangerous,” said ICAI chief Tamsyn Barton.

She added: “That diplomatic efforts by Britain and other donors to improve access and save lives have so far been ineffective shows how fragile the system underpinning international humanitarian law is, that is confronted with an enormously complex crisis like this.

“We note that other donors have taken steps such as halting or reducing arms sales or resuming funding to the main humanitarian organization, UNRWA, while Britain has not.”

UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees and the main aid provider in Gaza, was investigated over claims that some of its staff had links to the militant group. The outcome of a study was enough for other countries, such as Canada and Australia, to restore their cash flow.

Britain had already paid its planned contributions for 2023-2024 before the suspension, but has not allocated any funding to UNRWA for this financial year.

Britain’s primary focus has been on securing access to land for humanitarian aid, which all ICAI interviewees agreed was the most viable option for large-scale delivery.

Interviewees agreed that airdrops of humanitarian supplies in Gaza, which Britain has also carried out, should be a last resort because of the danger they pose to civilians, the watchdog said.

Sarah Champion, chair of the House of Commons International Development Committee, said the report shows that Britain must “take its proper place in the international humanitarian system and take effective action”.

Israel Palestinians
Palestinians wait for aid trucks crossing central Gaza (Abdel Kareem Hana/AP)

She said: “How can we say that people trapped in Gaza are being treated in accordance with international humanitarian law – or that British representations are having any meaningful effect?

“This independent assessment confirms what the commission saw when we visited the region back in February, what we heard in evidence from aid workers on the ground who have seen far too many of their colleagues killed and injured, and what the whole world is now finally seeing .

“Some countries are choosing to respond with serious action: limiting arms sales to Israel and restoring UNWRA funding. The FCDO’s response to our IDC report on the situation was full of the right words, and Britain’s increased aid to Gaza was very welcome, but in the reality of the situation on the ground this is nothing more than a gesture .

“Despite all diplomatic efforts and pledges, a total of 59 aid trucks entered Gaza between May 5 and 13 – the rest turned back on excuses as lame as transporting fruit with stones in it.

“Before this horror, 500 aid trucks entered Gaza every day to meet normal needs.”