London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Britain expressed yesterday its “deep concern” about the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip, especially with the advent of winter, as more than 30,000 persons remain homeless and living intents.
A British Foreign Office spokesman told Asharq Al-Awsat that “Britain is continuing to exert pressure on Israel to ease its restrictions on the entry of humanitarian aid and basic reconstruction materials.” The spokesman asserted that Prime Minister Gordon Brown raised this issue recently with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and said this issue tops Britain’s priorities when it meets Israeli officials.
Britain believes that a solution of the humanitarian situation is connected to the political one and also believes that the two parties to the conflict, Hamas and Israel, have responsibilities which they must implement regardless of what the other side does. It is demanding from Hamas to release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and stop firing rockets while calling on Israel to lift the blockade.
European sources which asked to remain anonymous told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Israeli blockade on Gaza “is unacceptable” and expressed their fears about its humanitarian effects and the resulting feeding of more extremism.” They added that the most the Western countries could do to help the Strip’s population under the present circumstances is to stop their conditions deteriorating further. The sourced said Israel’s decision not to allow the entry of some basic goods “is incomprehensible” and added: “Sometimes, we cannot see a reason for not allowing the entry of certain goods.” The number of trucks entering Gaza from Israel in 2007 was more than 12,000 a month and this dropped by 80 percent since June 2009 as no more than 2,400 trucks are allowed to enter the Strip each month. Israel justifies the imposition of the blockade by the fears about its security and the smuggling of weapons into the Strip. But the sources say that weapons are being smuggled through the tunnels.
The sources revealed that UN Envoy Robert Serry presented a complete plan that ensures for Israel the entry only of goods for the purposes earmarked for them. The plan, known as the “Serry package”, provides security guarantees for Israel in exchange for allowing the entry of construction materials into the Strip. The sources pointed out that negotiations about this plan reached a very advanced stage and there were positive Israeli signs but these later turned negative. Commenting on this, the sources said: “There are many goods that do not pose a threat but if security is the reason for deciding which goods to let in then everything will become suspicious.” They added: “In any case, the Israeli Government was clear that the blockade was not just for security reasons but also for pressuring Hamas.”