Gaza: more UK aid to stricken civilians

Posted on 26/07/2014 by

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UK Aid Shelter Kits and Water Containers are loaded for shipmentThe UK will provide an additional £2 million in emergency assistance for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s (UNRWA) Gaza Flash Appeal, International Development Secretary Justine Greening announced this morning – bringing the amount released this week to help Gaza to £7 million.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said: “More than 800 Palestinians have been killed in recent weeks, with thousands injured and many tens of thousands displaced. It is essential that civilians are protected and all sides must allow aid agencies unimpeded access to get to those in desperate need.

“A ceasefire needs to be agreed urgently as the first step towards a sustainable political solution. That is the only hope for peace and stability in the long term.”

The UK Government is clear that all sides must adhere to International Humanitarian Law and that all feasible precautions must be taken to avoid harm to civilians during a military attack.

Overall, the UK is the fourth biggest donor to UNRWA, providing £106.5m from 2011-2015. That funding is already helping UNRWA provide health services and shelter for Gazans affected by the fighting.

The amount committed by Britain to UNWRA’s emergency appeal in the last week is now £4 million. It will fund basic shelter, blankets, hygiene kits, nappies and other vital help for tens of thousands of people forced to flee their homes. The UK has also brought forward £3 million of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) support to help it respond to the worsening situation.

A Palestinian boy walks amongst the rubble of a house which police said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike in Deir El-Balah in the central Gaza StripScotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday, urging him to show equal determination in the UK Government’s approach to the situation in Gaza as they have shown in regard to the atrocity involving Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.

In particular Mr Salmond has called on the UK Government to make a stronger and more urgent response to the crisis in Gaza and – further to the statement by Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, about the failure to distinguish between civilians and combatants – to support an UN investigation.

Mr Salmond said: “The UK rightly called for a UN resolution to guarantee unfettered access to the crash site of flight MH17 and I was pleased to see this gained the support of the Security Council. It is imperative that an international investigation into the cause of the crash proceeds swiftly and effectively, and that the results of that investigation are appropriately acted upon.

“The efforts of the international community, working in concert, reflect the real benefits of a multilateral approach to matters of global security.

“It is with that cooperative spirit in mind that I have urged the UK Government to demonstrate equal determination in cooperating with international partners to resolve the rapidly deteriorating situation in the Middle East.

“The ground offensive in Gaza is a serious and worrying development. The lives lost in this conflict are individual human tragedies and the killing of innocent civilians, be they Palestinian or Israeli, is to be utterly condemned.

“The UN Security Council has called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, emphasising the need to improve the humanitarian situation, and I add my voice to theirs to reiterate that, in the view of the Scottish Government, the rocket attacks on Israel are unacceptable and should stop, as should the Israeli offensive in Gaza.

“The situation in Gaza represents a humanitarian crisis of grave proportions. More than 800 people, most of them civilians, have already lost their lives and over 5,000 have been injured. The UN states that more 118,000 Gazans are sheltering in UN schools. The attack on the school in Beit Hanoun on 24 July, condemned by the UN Secretary General, only serves to underline the desperate need for international action to stop the killing of innocent civilians.

“We note calls for an independent investigation into civilian deaths as a result of the conflict. Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has commented on the failure to distinguish between civilians and combatants, or to maintain proportionality and precautions in attack. The need for an investigation by the UN is therefore imperative. I urge the UK to give support to these calls.

“Scotland’s offer of medical assistance to help the humanitarian situation still stands and we are currently in dialogue to assess whether Scotland can give specialist medical help to civilians caught up in the conflict should medical evacuation be possible.

“The Scottish Government also believes that the continuation of the blockade in Gaza is exacerbating the suffering experienced by the people there and tantamount to collective punishment. For that reason, I reiterate the Scottish Government’s offer to accept our share of any refugees from the conflict arriving in the UK.

“The Scottish Government stand ready to deliver this support, and any further assistance as deemed necessary and appropriate.”

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