Shropshire Star

UK joining US to create sea route for Gaza aid

US President Joe Biden announced that American forces would build a temporary port in Gaza to get aid into the territory directly.

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The UK will join the US and other allies to create a maritime corridor to deliver aid directly to Gaza, the Foreign Secretary has said.

US President Joe Biden used his State of the Union address on Thursday to announce that American troops would establish a temporary port on the Gaza coast aimed at increasing the flow of aid into the territory.

The move follows mounting concern about the level of aid getting into Gaza over land, with international bodies warning of an impending famine if current restrictions continue.

(PA Graphics)

Lord Cameron on Friday said the UK would be working with the US to provide aid by sea.

He tweeted: “People in Gaza are in desperate humanitarian need.

“Alongside the US, the UK and partners have announced we will open a maritime corridor to deliver aid directly to Gaza.

“We continue to urge Israel to allow more trucks into Gaza as the fastest way to get aid to those who need it.”

Lord Cameron visits Sofia (Stoyan Nenov/PA)
Lord Cameron said the Government was continuing to urge Israel to allow more trucks into Gaza as the fastest way to get aid to those who need it (Stoyan Nenov/PA)

The temporary harbour “will take months to stand up”, Lord Cameron said, as he urged Israel to “promise today” to open its functioning Ashdod Port in the meantime to where aid could be shipped from Cyprus and driven into Gaza.

He told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme it was “incredibly frustrating” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not heeding calls to open more crossing points, allow more UN staff into Gaza and switch on water and electricity in the territory.

The UK will rule “in the coming days” if Israel is breaking international humanitarian law, according to the Foreign Secretary, who said the judgment would dictate whether Britain stops arms sales to the country.

The UK contribution to the maritime corridor is not expected to involve the deployment of British personnel.

Downing Street said on Friday the UK had been involved in planning and surveying for the pontoon and would now be “working with partners to operationalise our maritime aid corridor from Cyprus”.

In a joint statement with the US, the European Commission, the UAE and Cyprus, the UK described the situation in Gaza as “dire”.

According to the statement, Cyprus had taken the lead on establishing a mechanism for sending aid to Gaza by sea securely, which the partners would now build on to deliver “significant aid”, working in conjunction with the UN’s senior humanitarian and reconstruction co-ordinator for Gaza.

The statement said: “The delivery of humanitarian assistance directly to Gaza by sea will be complex, and our nations will continue to assess and adjust our efforts to ensure we deliver aid as effectively as possible.

“This maritime corridor can, and must, be part of a sustained effort to increase the flow of humanitarian aid and commercial commodities into Gaza through all possible routes.

“We will continue to work with Israel to expand deliveries by land, insisting that it facilitate more routes and open additional crossings to get more aid to more people.”

British aid packages have previously been air-dropped into Gaza in a joint operation with the Jordanian military, and the Government has continued to work on finding alternative routes for supplies to reach the territory.

The UK Government has also called for a “humanitarian pause” in the fighting to enable aid to get into Gaza and hostages held by Hamas to be released.

Hamas on Thursday left Cairo without a deal on a Gaza ceasefire and hostage release, dampening hopes mediators will broker an agreement before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan expected on Sunday.

Lord Cameron said “there’s still a possibility” of a deal before Ramadan, but added: “It’s more of a possibility than a probability, because the two sides seem to be some way away.”

Amnesty International UK chief executive Sacha Deshmukh said: “The creation of a maritime aid ‘corridor’ is a woefully slow response to the dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the UK is once again failing to show anywhere near the required level of urgency in how it responds to this calamitous situation.

“Whether or not the seaport scheme goes ahead, the UK should be redoubling its efforts to press Israel into opening existing land crossings for aid deliveries, while also demanding that Israel end its 17-year-long blockade of Gaza, which is an act of collective punishment.

“Lord Cameron must now break the pattern whereby the UK supports piecemeal measures like the seaport project while failing to lead on the bigger picture – which is that the UK is still failing to support an immediate ceasefire, is still allowing arms transfers to Israel, and is still failing to fully support international justice measures.”

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