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OPT: DFID makes £1M available for ICRC's humanitarian work in Gaza and the West Bank, as Benn signals UK's readiness to resume assistance to the Palestinian authority

The humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has deteriorated, compounded by the crisis in Gaza over the last two weeks. To help alleviate the suffering, International Development Secretary Hilary Benn today announced that £1 million will be channelled through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to meet immediate humanitarian needs.

Hilary Benn said:

"The situation for Palestinians in the West Bank and, particularly, Gaza remains desperately hard. They need access to health care, fuel and food. That is why I am today announcing £1 million for the ICRC, to support a wide range of activities, including providing healthcare, food, household relief kits and rebuilding water and sanitation facilities.

"We will not let the Palestinian people down. We continue to provide substantial assistance both through the UN Relief and Works Agency, and now ICRC. And we will look at other channels if that is the best way to deliver humanitarian aid.

"The most important thing now is access. Gaza's 1.3 million population is heavily dependent on imports of fuel and food. I urge the Israeli Government to ensure that crossings are open, both for imports of essential supplies and so that economic activity can resume in Gaza.

"The emergency government which was sworn in on 17 June has our full support. We will continue to work with those including President Abbas who are dedicated to a peaceful resolution to the conflict. We are ready to resume assistance to the Palestinian Authority and are beginning discussions on how best to help."

Notes to editors

1. The UK is working hard to help the humanitarian situation during this crisis, also providing assistance through the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and the

Temporary International Mechanism (TIM). DFID provided £15.6 million to UNRWA in April, to provide essential services such as health, education and housing to 4.1 million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. 70 per cent of the population of the Gaza Strip are refugees who directly benefit from this assistance.

2. DFID has also provided £15 million through the TIM. This has supported Palestinian front line health services, allowances for government workers and the operation,

maintenance and repair of water, sanitation and electricity services in Gaza and the West Bank.

3. The UK will continue to monitor the humanitarian situation and stand ready to consider further contributions.

4. After a week of fighting between Hamas and Fatah loyalists, relative calm has returned to the streets of Gaza. OCHA reports that between 9 and 13 June, 101

Palestinians were killed and over 550 injured during the inter-factional fighting.

5. The main humanitarian concern during the fighting was the ability of the health infrastructure to cope with the large number of ballistic trauma incidents. In

particular, there was a shortage of medical supplies, skilled medical personnel and blood products.

6. UN agencies and the NGOs are beginning to resume their activities following a suspension last week due to the insecurity. Movement around the Gaza Strip is

now possible and many commercial enterprises have reopened.

7. The main issue now is access. Gaza is entirely reliant in imports of wheat flour and other basic commodities through the crossing into Israel at Karni. Basic food and

other supplies are beginning to run short, with some signs of panic buying. The frequent closure of Karni crossing also severely restricts economic activity,

exacerbating the already precarious economic situation for the people of Gaza. Should the border crossings not return to normal the humanitarian situation will

deteriorate significantly as the people of Gaza become poorer and food and supplies become more expensive.

8. Additionally, Gaza power station relies on fuel imports through Israel. Aid agencies have said that, if Israel were to restrict fuel supplies into Gaza further, then essential

services like water, sanitation and hospitals would fail, further exacerbating the humanitarian situation for the people of Gaza.

9. ICRC is the only organisation that has been operational in Gaza over the last week, with both expatriate and national staff. Activities have centred on the delivery of

medical supplies, repatriation of bodies, medical evacuation and supporting the Palestinian Red Crescent (PRC) to deliver blood supplies. ICRC also assisted the

UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to deliver basic food supplies to the affected population.

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