Minister heckled after suggesting humanitarian airdrops in Syria could put British aircraft in ‘harm’s way’

‘So I say to you, we’re not ruling out options but we have to ask ourselves, would introducing British aircraft into this air environment actually compound matters or actually improve ways, or are there other safer ways of actually getting that aid in?’

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British aircraft could be placed in “harm’s way” if they were used to drop aid to besieged Syrians in eastern Aleppo, a Foreign Office minister has said as he was heckled by MPs in the Commons.

Tobias Ellwood, who was responding to an urgent question on the humanitarian crisis in the war-ravaged region of Syria did not rule out the proposal but questioned if sending aircraft would “compound matters or improve” them.

But Mr Ellwood – who also warned Russia that using food as a weapon of war was a “war crime” – was heckled after failing to commit to the humanitarian relief by MPs after Labour’s Alison McGovern urged the Government to consider the “last resort”.

“But what are you doing now?” shouted another MP in the chamber.

It comes after more than 120 MPs, including prominent Conservatives, called on Theresa May at the weekend to authorise the immediate airdrops of food and medicine to provide help to those trapped in the besieged areas.

The letter said “the time for excuses is over” and added that “nearly 100,000 children are facing the slowest, cruellest death because we cannot reach them with food and medical supplies.”

Ms McGovern had read out a statement from the Syrian Civil Defence – also known as the White Helmets – which warned Britain that Aleppo is “in a state of emergency” and that 279,000 people have been “under siege” for 94 days.

Blaming the Syrian regime and its ally Russia for more than 2,000 air strikes in the region in the last 13 days, the statement went on: “We’re calling on you, as the friends of the Syrian people, to act. The Syrian regime and Russia are refusing to let aid in to the city so we’re calling on you to air drop aid to provide urgent relief to starving civilians trapped.”

Ms McGovern added to Mr Ellwood: “Do you agree that the Government needs an urgent strategy to protect civilians?

“When hundreds of thousands of civilians are being starved and bombed in to submission, we must consider air drops – it’s time for the last resort.What Britain stands for on the world stage is being challenged. This is a test.

“Let us not stand and watch as one of the great cities of the world is destroyed. Let us not allow 100,000 children to starve in eastern Aleppo.

“When Kosovo was under attack it was Britain that led the way. When people in Sierra Leone cried out for our help, it was Britain who led the way. The people of Syria need us to show that leadership.”

In his response, Mr Ellwood said the UK is “looking at all options”. He added: “But you must understand... that were we to do unilateral or even multilateral aid drops, it places us in harm’s way and in conjunction with what is already a complicated air environment.

“The question has to be asked – is that the best and safest way of getting aid to where we need to actually go?

“So I say to you, we’re not ruling out options but we have to ask ourselves, would introducing British aircraft into this air environment actually compound matters or actually improve ways, or are there other safer ways of actually getting that aid in?”

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