MPs’ chance to press for action on Gaza humanitarian crisis
Debate at 2.30-4 pm Wed 5th February
MPs will have a chance to debate the deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza when Conservative MP Sir Tony Baldry introduces a 90-minute debate on Gaza on Wednesday.
The cause of the crisis is the Israeli blockade of Gaza, but this has been exacerbated in recent months by the winter storm and the closure of tunnels to turn the long-running humanitarian crisis into a disaster.
Aid minister Alan Duncan and Middle East minister Hugh Robertson have both visited Palestine recently and staked out a more robust position on Gaza. Alan Duncan warned that Gaza could become ‘unliveable’ by the autumn with no food, power or clean water and could soon be ‘unfit for human habitation’.
Hugh Robertson pointed out recently that the Israeli blockade of Gaza and occupation of the West Bank cost the Palestinian economy 85% of its Gross Domestic Product every year – and urged Israel to relax its ban on building material imports to Gaza.
If the talks break up at the end of April without an agreement, as seems likely, the ministers will need to back up their words with actions that will persuade the Israelis to lift the blockade and let imports and exports flow freely in and out of Gaza again.
Netanyahu will try to blame the Egyptians for the crisis, but this is disingenuous. Egypt has only a passenger crossing into Gaza and has been forced by US and Israeli pressure to refuse access to goods.
As Alan Duncan pointed out in the Commons last year, citing an IMF report, the blockade and other restrictions imposed by the Israelis cost the Palestinians 78% of their GDP or $6.3 billion a year. Without the restrictions, Palestine would no longer be dependent on aid.
The Israelis promised under the Oslo Accords to build a ‘land bridge’, a secure road to connect Gaza to the West Bank, which would allow the Gazans to restart their mothballed factories and export to their natural market, only 25 miles away, but Netanyahu has blocked it.
Instead the Israelis have continued to control Gaza’s borders, ports, airspace, passports and telecommunications and maintain constant surveillance from drones and helicopters. They still occupy Gaza in every way except boots on the ground.
Here are useful things to read:
Latest UN reports on Gaza
UN weekly report with update to January 27th 2014> th 2014>
UN Humanitarian Monitor October 2013