UK’s Cameron: Israel obstructing flow of aid into Gaza, closing crossing on Shabbat

COGAT denies British foreign secretary’s claims and invites him to come and inspect the aid mechanisms; says crossings closed on Shabbat due to UN need to catch up

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron arrives to attend the annual Commonwealth Day Service of Celebration at Westminster Abbey in London, Monday, March 11, 2024. (AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
British Foreign Secretary David Cameron arrives to attend the annual Commonwealth Day Service of Celebration at Westminster Abbey in London, Monday, March 11, 2024. (AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron accused Israel of hindering the flow of aid into Gaza amid a reported row with English-language government spokesman Eylon Levy, who is said to have since been suspended.

In a letter to the Chair of the UK Foreign Affairs Select Committee Alicia Kearns — cited by the Guardian on Thursday — Cameron wrote that not enough humanitarian assistance was getting into Gaza due to “arbitrary denials by the government of Israel and lengthy clearance procedures, including multiple screenings and narrow opening windows in daylight hours.”

Cameron wrote that Israel closes the Kerem Shalom crossing on Saturdays due to the Sabbath, and rejected an Israeli assertion that the UN requested Israel do so to allow workers to process the aid.

In his letter, he wrote that there were “claims that international donors should send as much aid as they wish and Israel will facilitate its entry. I wish that were the case.”

He added: “It is of enormous frustration that UK aid into Gaza has been routinely held up waiting for Israeli permissions. For instance, I am aware of some UK-funded aid being stuck at the border just under three weeks waiting for approval.”

COGAT, the Israeli defense ministry body governing civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories rejected his accusations and invited Cameron to meet with the body and learn about the extent of Israel’s humanitarian operation in Gaza.

In response, COGAT wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that Israel does not block aid from entering arbitrarily, and that it is “simply inspecting the aid for security reasons, and it’s done efficiently.”

The defense ministry body added that it is able to inspect “44 trucks an hour in both crossings combined.”

COGAT also denied that it shuts the crossings on Saturdays due to the Jewish day of rest.

“They are closed on Sabbath by agreement with the UN to enable the UN to collect the aid transferred during the week that has accumulated due to low logistic capacity,” it explained.

“Coordinate more aid to Gaza. We will facilitate,” it added.

Cameron’s letter comes amid a reported complaint by the UK regarding prominent English language spokesman Eylon Levy, who also challenged Cameron’s previous assertations on aid.

Levy’s suspension followed a complaint from the UK Foreign Office about his response to a post by Cameron on March 8, in which Britain’s top diplomat urged Israel “to allow more trucks into Gaza as the fastest way to get aid to those who need it,” Channel 12 news reported this week.

“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,” Levy wrote to Cameron in since-deleted comments on X.

“Test us. Send another 100 trucks a day to Kerem Shalom and we’ll get them in,” Levy added, referring to the crossing on Israel’s border with Gaza.

Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy, November 2023. (Avner Hofstein)

Levy, who was born and raised in England, had also issued a more biting response to a post from Cameron a day earlier, saying “it is factually incorrect that the flow of aid has not increased” and “if the UK wants more aid to enter Gaza, it should send it and we’ll make sure it gets in.”

Following the March 8 post, Kearns, the Conservative chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee said she shared it with Cameron and asked him to look into Levy’s statement that 100 more trucks can enter Gaza each day.

The Channel 12 report, which did not cite a source, said the Foreign Office sent an official missive to the Foreign Ministry saying British diplomats “were surprised” by Levy’s post, and asked to clarify whether his remarks “effectively attack Foreign Minister Cameron’s position and if they reflect the Israeli government’s official position.”

Levy has not commented on the reported suspension.

The devastating war — started on October 7 when the Hamas terror group launched a shock assault on Israel’s southern communities — has, according to the assessment, left roughly half of Gazans, or around 1.1 million people, experiencing “catastrophic” hunger.

Displaced Palestinians carry a box of food rations provided by the World Food Programme (WFP) at a makeshift street market in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 14, 2024(Mohammed Abed/AFP)

Hamas slaughtered some 1,200 people in southern Israel, most of them civilians, amid acts of wholesale brutality. An additional 253 people were seized as hostages, of whom 130 remain in Gaza, including at least 33 who are no longer alive.

In response to the massacre, Israel launched an aerial offensive and ground campaign, vowing to eradicate the terror group that has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007 and to release the hostages.

The Hamas-run health ministry has said that more than 31,800 people have been killed since October 7, figures that cannot be independently verified and do not differentiate between civilians and combatants, of whom Israel says it has killed more than 13,000. An additional 1,000 terror operatives were said to have been killed inside Israel on and immediately after October 7.

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