Britain to assist US with ‘emergency’ pier in Gaza as Lord Cameron piles pressure on Israel over aid

Britain will help the US build a “temporary pier” in Gaza to allow hundreds of extra daily truckloads of aid into the Strip, David Cameron has announced.

The foreign secretary said people in Gaza are in “desperate humanitarian need” and the UK will join with the US and partners to open “a maritime corridor to deliver aid directly”.

“We continue to urge Israel to allow more trucks into Gaza as the fastest way to get aid to those who need it,” he added.

The announcement came as Lord Cameron repeated his call for a “permanent sustainable ceasefire”, but said the prospect of a pause in the fighting in Gaza before Ramadan was “more of a possibility than a probability”.

After Hamas left talks in Cairo without a ceasefire deal, Lord Cameron said: “I think there’s still a possibility, but I think it’s more of a possibility than a probability because the two sides seem to be some way away.

He stressed that there is “a deal on the table” and that Hamas could “act now to stop the suffering and bloodshed in Gaza”, calling on the group to accept an agreement with the Israeli government. “And then we have that pause which is valuable because we can try and turn that pause into a permanent sustainable ceasefire,” he said.

David Cameron used a visit to Berlin to call for more aid to be allowed into Gaza (PA)
David Cameron used a visit to Berlin to call for more aid to be allowed into Gaza (PA)

The foreign secretary also said a judgment would be made on whether Israel remains compliant with international humanitarian law “in the coming days”. The decision is key to whether Britain will pile pressure on the Israeli government to let more aid into Gaza by withholding arms sales from Israel.

Speaking on Friday, Lord Cameron said it was “incredibly frustrating” that Israel was not taking steps to allow more aid into Gaza.

He told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “Right now there’s a crisis. We need 500 trucks a day or more going into Gaza.

“In the last five days, we’ve been averaging 123 trucks a day. That’s not good enough and that needs to be fixed now.

“And that can be fixed if Israel opens more crossing points, if they allow more UN staff into Gaza to help process the aid and get it round the different bits of Gaza. And they could also do things like full resumption of the water and the electricity that goes into north and south Gaza.

“We’ve set out these points repeatedly and it’s incredibly frustrating that these things haven’t happened when you think of the terrible humanitarian situation in Gaza.”

He also urged Israel to open the Port of Ashdod in Israel, a “functioning port” to which aid could be brought immediately on ships from Cyprus and then driven into Gaza.

It comes a day after Lord Cameron called for much more to be done to help get aid to Gaza as he warned of a looming humanitarian catastrophe.

Asked whether the UK is doing enough to pressure Israel to allow aid into Gaza, the foreign secretary told a press conference in Berlin: “I think the Israelis have to really understand that this is on the brink of being a desperate situation in terms of disease and famine, and so the time for doing more is now.

“We also need to make sure that at the same time as saying that, we say to Hamas that they should release these hostages...

“In all the thoughts we have about the aid getting into Gaza, and I would argue no one is doing more than Britain and Germany to pile that pressure on, let’s remember that there’s a group of people that could stop this conflict right now. And that is Hamas.”

Joe Biden is ordering US forces to conduct an “emergency” mission that will see them construct a seaport on the Gaza coast to allow a new influx of humanitarian aid into the territory as Israel’s war on Hamas enters its sixth month.

Joe Biden called for an ‘emergency’ mission to construct a seaport in Gaza to let more aid into the territory (AP)
Joe Biden called for an ‘emergency’ mission to construct a seaport in Gaza to let more aid into the territory (AP)

He confirmed the decision in his State of the Union speech overnight, with a senior official in his administration saying it will “get life-saving humanitarian aid into Gaza to alleviate the suffering of innocent Palestinians who have nothing to do with Hamas”.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said she expected the maritime aid corridor to start operating between Cyprus and Gaza this weekend, taking desperately needed aid to besieged Palestinians.

Ms Von der Leyen said a pilot test run of food aid collected by a charity group and supported by the United Arab Emirates could be leaving Cyprus as early as Friday from the port of Larnaca in Cyprus, with the pier operational within weeks.

“We are launching this Cyprus maritime corridor together, the European Union, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States,” Ms Von der Leyen said after a visit to facilities in Cyprus.

“We are now very close to opening this corridor, hopefully this Saturday-Sunday and I’m very glad to see an initial pilot will be launched today,” she said, alongside Cypriot president Nikos Christodoulides.

One aid group, World Central Kitchen (WCK), is currently gathering food supplies in Larnaca for the people of Gaza, with support from the UAE.

Overnight, Mr Biden said: “I’m directing the US military to lead an emergency mission to establish a temporary pier in the Mediterranean on the Gaza coast that can receive large ships carrying food, water, medicine and temporary shelters.

“No US boots will be on the ground. This temporary pier would enable a massive increase in the amount of humanitarian assistance getting into Gaza every day. But Israel must also do its part.

“Israel must allow more aid into Gaza and ensure that humanitarian workers aren’t caught in the crossfire. To the leadership of Israel I say this: humanitarian assistance cannot be a secondary consideration or a bargaining chip. Protecting and saving innocent lives has to be a priority.

“As we look to the future, the only real solution is a two-state solution. I say this as a lifelong supporter of Israel and the only American president to visit Israel in wartime. There is no other path that guarantees Israel’s security and democracy.

“There is no other path that guarantees Palestinians can live with peace and dignity.”

British aid packages have previously been airdropped into Gaza in a joint operation with the Jordanian military, and the government has continued to work on finding alternative routes for supplies to reach the territory.

The UK government has also called for a “humanitarian pause” in the fighting to enable aid to get into Gaza and hostages held by Hamas to be released.

Last week, the Commons international development committee warned that a famine in Gaza would be unavoidable without changes to allow more aid to get into the region.

The cross-party committee said any ceasefire of less than 30 days would not be enough to get sufficient food into Gaza, while US vice-president Kamala Harris has suggested a six-week ceasefire is within reach.