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Famine ‘highly likely’ in Gaza, Dean warns

14 June 2024

UN Security Council adopts new resolution to seek an end to the war

Christian Aid

Amal (name has been changed), 11, displays her picture of Qasr Al-Basha in Gaza City, also known as Pasha Palace, which previously housed a museum of antiquity and Al-Zahraa Secondary School for Girls, before it was destroyed. She is one of several children sheltering in Rafah who have been drawing pictures as part of a Christian Aid project to “keep Palestinian culture alive”

Amal (name has been changed), 11, displays her picture of Qasr Al-Basha in Gaza City, also known as Pasha Palace, which previously housed a museum of ...

MALNUTRITION is a daily reality in Gaza, and wide-scale famine within the month is highly likely, the Dean of St George’s College, Jerusalem, the Very Revd Canon Richard Sewell, has said.

Describing the Israel-Gaza situation as “the same as a month ago, only worse”, he told the Church Times this week that the Christian community in the West Bank had been further decimated by the mass migration of families, which he described as “a blow to morale”.

“Medical aid and food supplies into Al Ahli Hospital and throughout Gaza is intermittent and woefully inadequate. The activity of Israeli security forces throughout the West Bank is high and causing significant damage. Each new day is a crisis for Palestinians.”

On Monday, all 15 members of the UN Security Council, except Russia, which abstained, adopted a new resolution to seek an end to the war. The first phase was an “immediate, full, and complete” ceasefire.

Phase two of the US-drafted statement would mean a permanent end to hostilities “in exchange for the release of all other hostages still in Gaza, and a full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza”.

In phase three, “a major multi-year reconstruction plan for Gaza” would begin, and the remains of any deceased hostages still in the Strip would be returned to Israel.

“The horror must stop,” the UN secretary-general, António Guterres, said the next day, in Jordan. “I welcome the peace initiative recently outlined by President Biden, and urge all parties to seize this opportunity and come to an agreement.”

Canon Sewell warned, however: “Talk of ceasefires and peace plans offer glimpses of hope to people desperate for an end to war and its multiple effects; but these invariably vanish before our eyes in a deluge of claims, accusations, and recriminations. The massive disappointment when a proposal once again fails increases everyone’s sense of despair.”

Pope Francis used his Sunday Angelus address to express the hope that the latest negotiations would succeed, and that a ceasefire “will be accepted immediately for the good of Palestinians and Israelis”.

The executive committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC), concluding its meeting in Bogotá, Columbia, on Monday, said in a statement: “We uphold the God-given sanctity of life, and abhor the loss of so many precious lives, both Palestinian and Israeli. We reaffirm our belief in justice as the essential foundation for sustainable peace and reconciliation.”

More than 36,000 people, mostly women and children, had died in the conflict, the statement said. More than 83 per cent of the population had been displaced, often repeatedly, after half of homes had been destroyed.

Canon Sewell said that attacks in the West Bank had become “much worse than any seen in recent years. Across the whole of the Palestinian community in the West Bank, more than 500 people have died at the hands of Israeli forces and Israeli settlers there since 7 October, and 35 of those were under the age of 18. While some of those killed are claimed to be militants, there are also significant numbers of non-combatants.”

He continued: “Our Al Ahli hospital continues to function hugely over capacity, with exhausted and hungry staff doing their best to deal with high numbers of casualties. Even in this desperate situation, they have begun a new project in partnership with the Jerusalem Princess Basma Centre (another of our diocesan institutions) to provide therapeutic treatment for children who have suffered limb amputations, of which there are thousands.”

Mr Guterres and the UN have highlighted the plight of more than one million “deeply traumatized children in Gaza” who need psychosocial support and the safety and hope which schools used to provide.

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