David Cameron says patience ‘needs to run thin’ over Gaza aid

Foreign Secretary makes statement on eve of visit to London by Benny Gantz


Britain's Foreign Minister David Cameron speaks during a press conference with his Egyptian counterpart (not pictured) in Cairo on December 21, 2023. (Photo by Ahmed HASAN / AFP) (Photo by AHMED HASAN/AFP via Getty Images)

On the eve of a London visit by Israeli Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz today, Foreign Secretary David Cameron has said that “patience needs to run thin” with Israel over the supply of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.

Speaking in the Lords on Wednesday night, he said that as the occupying power in Gaza Israel had a duty under international humanitarian law to provide more aid. 

He said: “We’ve had a whole set of things we’ve asked the Israelis to do, but I have to report that the amount of aid they got in in February was about half what got in in January.

"So patience needs to run very thin, and a whole series of warnings need to be given starting with the meeting I have with Minister Gantz when he visits the UK tomorrow.”

Israel has accused humanitarian actors of not doing enough to distribute aid since the beginning of the war. Particular criticism has been directed at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which stands accused of failing to visit hostages held by Hamas and provide them with adequate assistance.

Israel has repeatedly said it is facilitating aid convoys and airdrops to Gaza.

US and Arab negotiators have pushed Israel and  terror group Hamas to agree to a short cessation in fighting – if for only a few days – in the hope it will lead to a longer ceasefire.

A brief respite in fighting “could prove to both sides that the other is serious about a longer deal, negotiators said,” The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

Ceasefire talks in Cairo, in which Israel did not directly participate, fell apart on Tuesday. The sides later agreed to continue negotiations for at least one more day.

The US has previously called for a temporary ceasefire. Speaking to reporters at the White House on 16 February, President Joe Biden said, “I’ve made the case, and I feel very strongly about it, that there has to be a temporary ceasefire to get the prisoners out, to get the hostages out.”

The US has held Hamas responsible for the failure of this round of talks. Biden told reporters on Tuesday that talks were “in the hands of Hamas right now. The Israelis have been cooperating. There’s an offer out there that’s rational. We’ll know in a couple of days what will happen.”

Vice President Kamala Harris also called on Hamas to accept the terms on the table, speaking during a meeting with Israeli War Cabinet member Benny Gantz at the White House on Monday.

Mediators had set the start of Ramadan as an unofficial deadline for a ceasefire. The annual Muslim religious holiday, which begins this year on the evening of March 10, is regularly exploited by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to incite violence against Jews.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant warned late last month that terrorist groups are plotting to step up violent attacks on the Jewish state during Ramadan.

“The main goal of Hamas is to take Ramadan, with an emphasis on the Temple Mount and Jerusalem, and turn it into the second phase of their plan that began on October 7,” Gallant told IDF troops.

While the Biden administration blamed Hamas for the collapse of the latest negotiations, its position towards Israel has gradually shifted as it comes under pressure from its progressive party base.

Initially full-throated in its support for Israel at the start of the Gaza war, the White House has increasingly signalled its dissatisfaction with Israel over issues related to humanitarian aid and the high death count of noncombatants (at least according to Hamas numbers).

Most recently, on Tuesday US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller accused Israeli ministers of being an “obstacle” to Gaza aid.

Harris, in her Monday meeting with Gantz, criticised Israel’s handling of the humanitarian issue, an Israeli official told the Journal.

Gantz argued that Israel must destroy Hamas’s remaining stronghold in Rafah, a city bordering Egypt. Otherwise, Hamas could survive and regroup.

“Finishing the war without demilitarising Rafah is like sending in firefighters to put out 80 per cent of a fire,” Gantz told US officials at meetings with Harris and other senior Biden officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

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