UK Foreign Office minister ‘deeply concerned’ about growing risk of famine in Gaza

By Staff

A Foreign Office minister has said he is “deeply concerned” about the growing risk of famine in Gaza and the longer term effects of the ongoing conflict. Andrew Mitchell told the Commons that Israel “must do more” to provide land routes for aid.

But the minister, who acts as a deputy for Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron in the Commons, was warned by shadow foreign secretary David Lammy that current levels of aid going into Gaza are “woefully inadequate” and also claimed that the famine is “man-made”.

Conservative former minister Kit Malthouse suggested Israel may be “wilfully obstructing” aid from crossing the border.

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Answering an urgent question on the situation in Gaza, Mr Mitchell told the Commons: “We are deeply concerned about the growing risk of famine, exacerbated by the spread of disease and of course the terrible psychosocial impacts of the conflict that will be felt for years to come.”

“We are totally committed to getting humanitarian aid to all the people in Gaza who desperately need it either ourselves, or through UN agencies and British or other charities. We and our partners are pushing to get aid in through all feasible means by land, sea and air.”

However, the minister said sea and air deliveries could not “substitute delivery of aid through land routes”.

“There is no doubt that land crossings are the most effective means of getting aid into Gaza, and Israel must do more,” he added.

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Labour frontbencher Mr Lammy warned that famine in Gaza is “imminent”, with half the population “expected to face catastrophic levels of hunger, the highest number of people ever recorded under this system”.

He added: “But what distinguishes the horror in Gaza from what has come before is this is not driven by drought or natural disaster it is man-made.”

“It is the consequences of war, it is the consequence of aid that is available not reaching those who need it. Food is piled up in trucks just a few kilometres away, while children in Gaza are starving. It’s unbearable, and it must not go on.”

Mr Lammy added that a planned Israeli offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah would risk “catastrophic humanitarian consequences” and called on the Government to work to prevent a further attack.

SNP foreign affairs spokesman Brendan O’Hara issued a similar plea, telling MPs: “The people of Gaza are not starving. The people of Gaza are being starved.”

He claimed that people “just 44 miles from Tel Aviv” are at risk of starvation, which the SNP frontbencher said is the distance between Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland.

Mr Malthouse, meanwhile, suggested the UK is “begging, pleading, pressing the Israeli government to allow more aid in, to seemingly little effect”.

He added: “Now, has he (Mr Mitchell) reached the conclusion that the Israeli government is wilfully obstructing the entrance of aid into the Gaza Strip and, if so, that will presumably be a breach of the International Court of Justice’s ruling and indeed international humanitarian law. So what will the consequence be of that conclusion?”

“I don’t think we are in a position to reach that judgment”, Mr Mitchell replied.

Labour MP Zarah Sultana said babies in Gaza are so malnourished they do not have the energy to cry.

She added: “This isn’t a natural disaster, it isn’t accidental, it is intentional Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war to collectively punish the Palestinian people. Israel blocks food from entering Gaza while bombing the people trapped inside.”

Mr Mitchell accused the MP for Coventry South of using “florid language”.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who has previously spoken of her family in Gaza, urged the Government to change its position and call for an immediate ceasefire.

The Oxford West and Abingdon MP said: “What we are doing isn’t working, but there is one more thing we can do, which is to change how we vote at the UN Security Council. Will the UK stop abstaining and join the rest of the world in calling for that immediate ceasefire now?”

Mr Mitchell replied: “The problem with calling for an immediate ceasefire is it may salve our consciences, but it is not deliverable because neither side in this appalling brutality… neither side is willing to embrace a ceasefire.”

“That is why the policy of the British Government is to argue in every way we can for a pause, so that we can get the hostages out and get aid in, which can then lead to a sustainable ceasefire.”

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