British MP rejects claims by Israeli government spokesperson over aid access to Gaza

British MP rejects claims by Israeli government spokesperson over aid access to Gaza
The British Foreign Secretary has contradicted claims made by an Israeli government over the entry of aid into Gaza.
4 min read
22 March, 2024
David Cameron responded to Alicia Kearns letter and said he was frustrated that UK-donated aid was being held up outside the Gaza border [GETTY]

A British MP has rebuked claims from an Israeli government spokesperson that there are "no limits" to aid entering Gaza, after a heated online exchange prompted the politician to seek clarity from the British foreign minister.

Alicia Kearns, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in the UK's parliament, was embroiled in an online spat with Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy on social media site X over whether Israel is restricting aid items from entering war-torn Gaza.

Kearns sought clarification from British Foreign Secretary David Cameron as to whether the UK could boost daily aid deliveries by 100 more trucks, as per Levy's challenge, and wrote him an urgent letter on 9 March.

Levy also alleged that the UN was accountable for the Saturday closures of the Karem Abu Salem, known as Kerem Shalom in Israel, border crossing between Israel and Gaza.

The Conservative MP published Cameron's three-page response on Thursday which contradicts some of the claims Levy made over aid distribution, including that the UN was to blame for the closure of Kerem Shalom on Saturdays.

"Grateful to David Cameron for such clarity in his response to my letter," Kearns wrote in a post on X which attaches the letter.

In the letter, Cameron writes: "In response to the Israeli spokesman claims that you quote in your letter, 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," Cameron adds.

However, Israel's unit responsible for aid, the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), rebuffed the claims in the foreign minister's letter and invited him to a meeting. 

Israel has come under increasing scrutiny from the humanitarian community for its stringent control of aid entering Gaza, as the enclave’s 2.3 million people face hunger and disease.

Electricity and water supplies were cut off by Israel at the start of the war in October, triggering an urgent need for water deliveries and equipment such as solar panels and generators.

But this equipment, plus items like water filtration systems, solar lamps, oxygen tanks, wheelchairs, and other medical supplies have been rejected by Israeli border authorities.

The UK government has donated 150 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Gaza in the past month, including tents, blankets, and hygiene supplies, but as Kearns notes in her letter, some UK-donated aid has been rejected.

"UK aid for Gaza has been routinely held up waiting for Israeli permissions. Some UK funded aid stuck at border for just under three weeks waiting for approval," Kearns said.

Cameron’s letter blamed "arbitrary denials by the Government of Israel and lengthy clearance procedures, including multiple screenings and narrow opening windows in daylight hours".

Aid agencies that The New Arab has recently spoken to relayed similar complaints about the arbitrary denial of goods by Israeli authorities and delays in the processing system, despite the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

The online spat between Kearns, Cameron, and Levy prompted the alleged suspension of the English-language government spokesperson from his position, which he assumed following the outbreak of war on Gaza.

He has made regular appearances on British and American news channels, including the BBC, CNN and Channel 4, trumpeting Israel’s offensive in Gaza, which has killed over 32,000 people, and regularly rebuffing challenges to his claims by interviewers.

In response to a post from Kearns on 7 March, in which she said that Israel had legal responsibilities to provide aid, water, and medicine to civilians, Levy wrote in a long thread:

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

Levy then involved the Israeli unit responsible for aid delivery, COGAT, which relayed that there is "no limit to humanitarian aid" that can enter Gaza.

The UN has said that its agencies are struggling to distribute aid across the territory amid fighting and a breakdown of civil order and has pressed Israel to open a crossing into the north, which is facing imminent famine.