UK Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron expresses 'enormous frustration' at Israel delaying aid into Gaza

Lord Cameron said aid has been “routinely held up waiting for Israeli permissions”. Credit: PA

Lord Cameron says he feels "enormous frustration" that UK aid for Gaza has been delayed by Israel, who he accused of blocking urgently needed supplies into the territory.

UK aid to Gaza has been stuck at the border for almost three weeks waiting for approval by the Israeli government, the foreign secretary has revealed.

In a letter published by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Lord Cameron said aid had been “routinely held up waiting for Israeli permissions”, blaming “arbitrary denials” by the Israeli government as one of the “main blockers” to assistance for the territory.

Lord Cameron also contradicted claims by Israeli spokesman Eylon Levy that the Kerem Shalom crossing in the south of the Gaza Strip had been closed on Saturdays at the request of the UN.

Israeli and British media have reported that Mr Levy has been suspended by the Israeli government.

Mr Levy's suspension comes amid a public row with Lord Cameron on X. The foreign secretary urged Israel to "allow more trucks [of aid] into Gaza", and Mr Levy replied: "I hope you are also aware there are NO limits on the entry of food, water, medicine, or shelter equipment into Gaza, and in fact the crossings have EXCESS capacity."

Relations between Lord Cameron’s Foreign Office and Tel Aviv have shown signs of strain in recent days Credit: James Manning/PA

"Test us. Send another 100 trucks a day to Kerem Shalom and we'll get them in," Mr Levy wrote.

In his letter to the chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Alicia Kearns, Mr Cameron wrote: "In response to the Israeli spokesman claims... I can confirm that the UN has not requested that the Kerem Shalom crossing is closed on Saturdays. It is our understanding that Israel closes it due to the Sabbath.”

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Prior to October 7, around 500 trucks entered Gaza each day, but the daily average for the first half of March has been just 165 lorries. Lord Cameron said this was an improvement on January and February, but “urgent progress” was still needed.

The Israeli authorities have claimed the UN is failing to distribute aid.

But in his letter sent on March 15, Lord Cameron said: “The main blockers remain arbitrary denials by the government of Israel and lengthy clearance procedures, including multiple screenings and narrow opening windows in daylight hours.”

Saying it was “vital” to increase the number of aid trucks going into Gaza, Lord Cameron said he and Rishi Sunak had raised the issue “consistently” with the Israeli government and he would “continue to press this point”.

He also reiterated calls for Israel to issue more visas to the UN staff needed to increase the distribution of aid, noting the Association of International Development Agencies said Israel had more than 50 visa applications pending.

Ms Kearns said she was “grateful” to the foreign secretary for being “clear and candid” in his letter.

She said: “Today’s letter confirms what we saw and heard on our visit to the border area – that Israel’s arbitrary denials and lengthy clearance processes are key factors in holding up the delivery of aid.

“It also confirms that Israel has the ability and power to turn the water back on in Gaza, and so far has chosen not to do so.

“If the famine continues along its current trajectory, thousands of Gazans will lose their lives. This is suffering on an unimaginable scale.”

Ms Kearns also called on Israel to open more border crossings and the port at Ashdod to enable more aid to reach Gaza, calling the situation “one of the most desperate, distressing humanitarian disasters in recent memory”.

Earlier this month, Lord Cameron used a meeting with a member of Israel's war cabinet to begin issuing a "whole series of warnings" to the country over aid reaching the Gaza Strip.

The meeting with Benny Gantz, a retired Israeli military general, came as humanitarian organisations warned of the growing threat of starvation and disease in the territory.

On Thursday, Downing Street said the UK enjoyed a “close working relationship” with Israel, despite signs of strain between the Foreign Office and Tel Aviv.

Despite Lord Cameron’s criticism, Downing Street said the government still believed that Israel was acting within international humanitarian law.

A Number 10 spokeswoman said: “Our assessment hasn’t changed. We do keep it under constant review and act in accordance with that advice.”

Speaking in Parliament earlier this month, Lord Cameron said the amount of aid that reached Gaza in February was just half that of the previous month.

He also made clear Israel as the occupying power was responsible, which had consequences under international humanitarian law.

"We are facing a situation of dreadful suffering in Gaza. There can be no doubt about that," he said.

"I spoke some weeks ago about the danger of this tipping into famine and the danger of illness tipping into disease and we are now at that point.

"People are dying of hunger. People are dying of otherwise preventable disease."

On Friday, a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and an Israeli-Hamas hostage deal will be put to a vote at the UN Security Council.

The resolution was put forward by the US, and is expected to pass.

Both the US and the UK have been hardening their stance on Israel's actions in Gaza, on Thursday US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said an Israeli assault on Gaza's Rafah would be a "mistake".

On Thursday, the Archbishop of Canterbury added his voice to those warning of an impending famine in Gaza.

The Most Rev Justin Welby said: “Israel’s prosecution of this war has destroyed large parts of the Gaza Strip – decimating infrastructure essential to human survival.

“The scarcity of humanitarian access to and within the Strip continues to prevent aid workers from distributing life-saving supplies.

“We should not become numb to this injustice. It can never be normal for parents to use animal fodder or grass to feed their children.”

Lord Cameron is currently in Australia, signing a defence and security agreement.

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