Israel must recognise its responsibility for ensuring humanitarian aid gets through to the people of Gaza, the Foreign Secretary has said, as he highlighted the desperate plight of Palestinians in the war-torn territory.
Lord Cameron also suggested an immediate pause in the Israel-Hamas conflict, to allow in more humanitarian supplies and the release of hostages held by the militants, could form the basis of a lasting ceasefire.
The Cabinet minister was pressed over the devastating Middle East conflict, which has now lasted more than 100 days, during his monthly question time in the House of Lords.
Former foreign secretary and SDP leader Lord Owen, who served as EU peace negotiator in the former Yugoslavia, said: “Would the Foreign Secretary consider very seriously creating a UN protection force for humanitarian relief? That was done very successfully in the winter of 1992 in a very difficult situation with no ceasefire in Bosnia (and) Herzegovina.
“Although a ceasefire is absolutely essential it is not in the immediate future very likely, but the humanitarian crisis is getting worse and worse every day and they cannot do this without some form of protection from UN forces.”
Lord Cameron said: “As a former foreign secretary I take what he says very seriously.
“I think what would make a difference is if Israel recognised its responsibilities for making sure that food and medicine and supplies have to be delivered to people in Gaza and if it recognised that you need the UN staff who have the visas, the equipment and the fuel to help get it round.
“I will certainly take away the suggestion that he makes.”
He added: “Before the conflict there were something like 500 trucks going into Gaza every day. I check the figures every single day. We are up to about 150 trucks at the moment and that is not enough and the longer it goes on the greater the risk of people going hungry, the greater risk of disease and this humanitarian crisis getting worse.”
Stressing the urgent need for aid to get through, Lord Cameron said: “Right now as we speak, nine out of 10 people in Gaza are living on less than one meal a day. It is that serious.
“That is why I have had repeated conversations with the Israelis and set out a whole series of bottlenecks that need to be relieved.”
Lord Cameron also repeated his call for an immediate pause in hostilities.
He told peers: “We have said we want to see this immediate pause so we can get aid in and hostages out, but in many ways the very best outcome would be to see that immediate pause for the aid and the hostages and to see if you could then convert that into a sustainable ceasefire without there being further hostilities.”
He went on: “But we have to be clear, for that to happen a series of things would have to happen. There would have to be immediate negotiations to release all the hostages. You would have the Hamas leadership having to leave Gaza.
“You would have to be clear that there was no more danger of rocket and terror attacks on Israel. You would have to put together something based on the Palestinian Authority, backed by other Palestinians to go back into Gaza.
“That in many ways would be the best outcome.
“But if you call now for an immediate ceasefire with no further fighting when you have got Hamas still in power, still launching rockets, still capable of terror attacks, not only would you not have a sustainable ceasefire and a sustainable peace, you would have no hope of the thing I think many in this House would like to see which is a two-state solution.”