GROWING diplomatic pressure on Israel and Hamas to end the
fighting in the Gaza Strip has been matched by appeals for
humanitarian assistance for the Palestinians living there. More
than 700 Palestinians and 30 Israelis (mostly soldiers) have died
in 14 days of violence.
The UN says that most of the Palestinians killed were civilians,
including dozens of children. Israel says that it has killed more
than 170 Hamas and other Islamist fighters. An estimated 100,000
people have left their homes in Gaza.
One of the biggest problems faced by Gazans, and those seeking
to help them, is the shortage of food and other essentials, as well
as the damage caused to infrastructure. The director of the
Anglican-supported Al-Ahli Hospital, Dr Suhaila Tarazi, said on
Tuesday that her staff "urgently need medicines and medical
supplies, food, and money for fuel for the generators, because for
16 hours a day there is no mains electricity".
Dr Tarazi said that Al-Ahli Hospital was completely full:
injured civilians and the chronically ill have nowhere to go.
Patients are "often admitted with their families, who are too
frightened to return to their homes. All these things add to our
problems as we try to secure food, because you can't feed the
patient and not offer food to the family."
Because of the dangers and difficulties travelling around Gaza,
staff at Al-Ahli are working 12-hour shifts, back to back.
The hospital's difficulties were compounded on Monday when an
Israeli missile struck the laundry room. "Now we have no way of
providing clean linen," Dr Tarazi says. "There is masonry and
shrapnel everywhere, and every glass of water in the hospital was
broken. Also, the psychological damage was immense on those who had
already suffered Israeli attacks at home. Two injured patients said
they felt the hospital was no longer safe; they told me they didn't
want to die, and discharged themselves."
The international relief and development agency of the Episcopal
Church in Jerusalem, Episcopal Relief and Development, is one of
the organisations providing Al-Ahli Hospital with funding for food
and fuel (www.episcopalrelief.org).
"We are helping our partner in Jerusalem care for those most
vulnerable, particularly the injured, and women and children
affected by the airstrikes in Gaza," the agency's senior
vice-president for programs, Abigail Nelson, said. "Our assistance
will help the hospital provide life-saving treatment and
compassionate aid, and our prayers are with them as they carry out
their work in very difficult conditions."
Last week, the Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt Revd Suheil Darwani,
issued an urgent appeal to church partners for aid for Al-Ahli
Christian Aid, on Monday, launched an emergency appeal (www.christianaid.org.uk)
"to address the mounting humanitarian needs of thousands of
innocent civilians caught in the violence in Gaza. Christian Aid's
head of the Middle East region, Janet Symes, said that the
"horrific escalation of violence in the region means the levels of
need on the ground will continue to rise at a dramatic rate.
"Christian Aid urges the international community to act
immediately to bring about a ceasefire and address the root causes
of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to prevent this happening
again." Without a just peace being achieved, "Palestinians and
Israelis will be destined to live through the horrors of violence
again and again."
A Christian Aid partner, the Palestinian Medical Relief Society
(PMRS), says that several of its clinics have been severely
damaged. PMRS is now operating two mobile clinics: one in north
Gaza, and one in Gaza City; and providing services in three UN
shelters which had previously acted as schools. They are aiming to
reach 8000 people a day with health care and treatment.
The mobile clinics director for PMRS, Dr Hassan Zain Eldeen,
said: "'People are frightened. They can't understand everything
that has happened. Maybe they will understand; but for now they are
living through the most traumatic horrors."
Another Christian Aid partner, the Agricultural Development
Association, is ready to support the immediate livelihood needs of
fishermen who have had their boats and nets damaged or destroyed in
sea strikes by the Israeli military, as well as farmers living in
northern Gaza whose agricultural lands have been targeted.
The Church in Wales says that concern is growing for a mobile
dental clinic which it funds. The clinic, with its distinctive
Welsh red dragon stickers, operates in the Shejaiyah district of
Gaza - an area that has been the focus of recent bombardment. So
far, the Church in Wales has been unable to establish contact with
the Near East Council of Churches, which runs the clinic as well as
other humanitarian aid projects.
The Archdeacon of Margam, the Ven. Philip Morris, who chairs the
Church in Wales's International Group, said that the funding of the
dental clinic was part of wider efforts to give hope to Gazans,
"without any political agenda. . . Our thoughts and prayers are
with the people of Gaza and Israel at this time. We look forward to
hearing news from the Council of Churches in Gaza, and of the
Britain announced on Monday that it would provide more than £5
million in emergency support, including £2 million in new funding
for the UN Relief and Works Agency Flash Appeal. This will provide
assistance to more than 84,000 people who have been driven out of
their homes. The remaining £3 million is being donated to the
International Committee of the Red Cross.
Pope Francis, on Sunday, sent a personal message to the Roman
Catholic parish priest of Gaza, Fr Jorge Hermandez, a fellow
Argentinian, saying that he was keeping the Christian community
there in his prayers. Fr Mario Cornioli, from Beit Jala, in the
West Bank, had earlier informed the Pope of the challenging
conditions facing Christians and others in the Gaza Strip.
In an interview with Vatican Radio, Fr Cornioli said that the
Pope's message to Fr Hermandez had given Christians in Gaza fresh
courage and hope.
On Tuesday, the Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth,
said: "I come from Coventry, a country that knows what it is like
to be rained upon by bombs of destruction, but also a city that
learned that retaliation is ultimately self-destructive and that
the violence that we inflict on others will return to us.
"There is only one way out, and that is to break the cycle of
violence. Somehow, these two peoples need to find a way out of the
cycle of retaliation and revenge. That is their only hope."