British MPs granted Gaza access 
A cross-party delegation of British MPs has been allowed into Gaza to
assess the effects of the recent Israeli military offensive.  
Members of the Britain-Palestine All Party Parliamentary Group were granted 
entry by the Israeli military. 
They hope to spend the afternoon being taken around sites damaged during 
Israeli military action. 
Israel said its 22-day operation was launched in response to militants firing 
rockets at its towns from Gaza. 
About 1,300 Palestinians are understood to have died in the conflict, while 13 
Israelis died. 
The MPs say they want to speak directly to people affected and hope to
visit international aid operations, including UN-run sites. 
They plan to stay there until at least Tuesday. 
As the UK delegation arrived in the region, hopes were dashed that a
formal truce could soon be announced between Israel and Hamas, after
both sides announced separate ceasefires on 18 January. 
The Israeli government announced that a captured
Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, would have to be released before such a
deal was struck, not as part of a subsequent prisoner swap. 
The parliamentary group's chairman Richard Burden, the
Labour MP for Birmingham Northfield, is leading the six-strong team. 
'Grim' situation  
The MPs want to take witness accounts of what happened during the
incursion as well as visiting UK-funded reconstruction projects. 
“ The danger is that people will forget as it goes off of our TV screens.
But the families are still living in very difficult circumstances  ” 
Jasmine Whitbread Save the Children 
Mr Burden was one of the loudest voices calling for a ceasefire during the 
conflict. 
He later tabled a Commons motion - signed by more than 170 MPs -
criticising the BBC and Sky News for refusing to broadcast an appeal by
the Disasters Emergency Committee for funds to provide aid in Gaza. 
The MPs' visit has been welcomed by the charity Save the Children. 
Chief executive Jasmine Whitbread told the BBC the humanitarian situation was 
"grim". 
"We think that up to 100,000 people have been displaced. Over 90% of
the population is dependent on food aid, and it'll be shocking for them
I'm sure," she said. 
"The danger is that people will forget as it goes off
of our TV screens. But the families are still living in very difficult
circumstances. So I think it helps to keep the attention on this." 
This weekend, a convoy of more than 100 vehicles left
the UK for Gaza, where aid worth £1m, including ambulances and a fire
engine, will be delivered. 
It was organised by the Viva Palestina umbrella group
and supported by Muslim organisations, as well as the Stop the War
Coalition. 
Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/uk_news/7890977.stm

Published: 2009/02/15 13:21:59 GMT

© BBC MMIX

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