£20m Gaza aid package unveiled by Alexander

Britain pledges £20 million worth of humanitarian aid for people of Gaza Strip
Britain pledges £20 million worth of humanitarian aid for people of Gaza Strip

International development secretary Douglas Alexander has pledged £20 million worth of humanitarian aid for Gazans as Gordon Brown flies to Egypt for talks aimed at securing a permanent ceasefire.

On Sunday the government announced a new package of humanitarian support after Israel said it was ending its military offensive against Hamas, which has said it will hold fire for a week to allow Israeli troops to withdraw.

More than 1,200 Palestinians have died during the conflict, while aid agencies - barred from entering Gaza - have warned of the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe.

Mr Alexander announced the £20 million aid package on BBC1's Andrew Marr Show.

But he admitted that supplies alone would not be enough, describing the situation as "very, very dire".

"We need aid but we also need access because there have been severe constraints on the ability of humanitarian workers and supplies to actually get to the population who need it," Mr Alexander explained.

"We need to make sure that more convoys are able to get into Gaza and we've been quite clear that we want unfettered humanitarian access."

Mr Brown is heading to the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to attend talks with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy.

Mr Alexander explained that the UK wanted the temporary unilateral ceasefire, put under strain by exchanges of missile fire earlier today, into a lasting peace.

"That's why our prime minister Gordon Brown is up in the air at the moment to go to Egypt... to try and show our support for the efforts of the Egyptian government to find a way forward."


Politics @ Lunch

Friday lunchtime. Your Inbox. It's a date.