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More than £70m in British aid is failing to reach Gaza, finds watchdog

HUMANITARIAN charities called yesterday for an end to arms sales to Israel after an official watchdog reported that British aid worth tens of millions of pounds is being prevented from entering Gaza by the Israeli authorities.

The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI), a watchdog that reports to the Commons international development committee, said that Britain had committed more than £70 million in extra funding for humanitarian assistance since the current conflict began in October last year.

But the commission added that all diplomatic efforts to get aid into the Gaza Strip, where more than 35,000 people have now been killed and near-famine conditions exist, had failed.

War on Want, which has trade union backing, and sister charity Oxfam pointed out that British arms continue to flow to the Israeli military and called for shipments to be stopped.

ICAI chief commissioner Dr Tamsyn Barton said the humanitarian situation in Gaza was “becoming an unprecedented catastrophe as Israel’s invasion of Rafah gets under way.

“While the UK has significantly increased aid to Gaza in response to the crisis, it’s clear that very little is reaching those who urgently need it, with restrictions on land access — the only way to move enough aid — increasing and the situation for aid workers increasingly perilous,” Dr Barton added.

“That the UK and other donors’ diplomatic attempts to improve access and save lives have so far been ineffective shows how fragile the system underpinning international humanitarian law is, confronting a hugely complex crisis such as this.”

The ICAI quoted humanitarian experts as saying that Israeli military restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian assistance and repeated strikes on aid convoys had been met with “ineffectual criticism by key donor countries, including the UK.”

Oxfam said: “Over 1.4 million women, men and children are sheltering in Rafah” and that Israel’s assault “risks a further humanitarian catastrophe on an unprecedented scale.”

“Yet the UK continues to sell arms and provide military support to Israel, making it complicit in this crisis,” the charity said.

“If the UK ends arms sales to Israel, it will send a powerful message that the UK will not sit back and allow an invasion of Rafah to happen without acting.”

International development committee chairwoman Sarah Champion, a Labour MP, said the report showed that Britain must “step up to its proper place in the international humanitarian system and take effective action.”

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