LONDON: British military personnel are helping the Palestinian Authority prepare to take control of the Gaza Strip, Defense Secretary Grant Shapps told The Times.
The British Support Team, which works with US and Canadian personnel, has been in Ramallah for over a decade, working with elements of the Palestinian security services, he said.
Shapps met the team and PA Interior Minister Maj. Gen. Ziad Hab Al-Reeh in Ramallah on Thursday, and said the UK’s presence could be expanded to assist the PA with any power transition in Gaza.
“Ultimately, I think the solution (to governance of Gaza) is likely to be a Palestinian Authority, who need to be capable of a level of governance which will require a huge amount of international help and support and we are not there yet,” Shapps said.
“When something really terrible happens what we absolutely need to do is get something that is better than what was there before.
“We have to use this appalling crisis to improve the security of Israelis and the lives and livelihoods of Palestinians. And I think you do that by bringing together an international coalition which is led by Arab states in terms of the on-the-ground reconstruction of Gaza and also administratively.
“One of the reasons we are going to Ramallah to talk to the Palestinian Authority is to understand their capacity and ability. One of the things we will be doing is talking to the British team who are helping to build that capacity along with the Americans.”
Shapps, who is Jewish, also met with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. They lit candles to mark the first day of Hanukkah, while Shapps also visited a kibbutz near Israel’s border with Gaza.
His comments come in sharp contrast to those of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has said Israel needs security control over Gaza after its military operation in the enclave ends.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in November that the PA taking control in Gaza would depend on a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.