Britain has given the first tranche of around £27 million in humanitarian aid to United Nations agencies working to bring relief to the inhabitants of Gaza.
Department for International Aid Minister Mike Foster went to Israel hours after it declared a ceasefire and talked to Israeli ministers, the Palestinian Authority and UN and international aid officials about how to get aid into Gaza as quickly as possible.
Mr Foster told Israeli officials that there needed to be as many as 500 trucks of aid going into the area every day to meet the needs of the Palestinians.
At a special briefing last week, international development secretary Douglas Alexander gave details of the £10 million allocated so far:
• £4 million to the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) to carry out immediate life-saving work, such as providing medical treatment to the injured;
• £4 million for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Gaza flash appeal to help feed 550,000 people, provide shelter for those who have been displaced, cash assistance for up to 2,500 families and fuel to maintain essential public services;
• £1 million for the UN’s humanitarian emergency response fund, to enable its local humanitarian coordinator to allocate funds quickly to non-governmental and other organisations with staff on the ground;
• £1 million to the World Food Programme.
Mr Alexander said the UN was carrying out a needs assessment “which will provide a clear picture of the humanitarian problems that need to be dealt with.
“Our immediate focus is in response to the significant humanitarian need in Gaza and facilitate the removal of the injured and ensure provision of basic food and shelter,” he said.
Asked if the DFID would speak directly to Hamas in order to rebuild Gaza, Mr Alexander replied: “The British government’s position on Hamas is well stated and I have no intention of talking about that. The work is being taken forward by the UN but our effort right now is in humanitarian aid rather than long term reconstruction.”
In answer to one question about whether reconstruction could be destroyed by another outbreak of fighting, Mr Alexander said that the international community was working to “turn the fragile cease-fire into a political agreement and a durable and permanent peace”.
Mr Foster said one of the main issues he raised with the Israeli government was that of access to Gaza.
Mr Alexander pointed out that a number of British charities were already working inside Gaza.