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No Electricity, Water: Caritas Official to Launch Appeal for Gaza

21 Jul 2014 – By Judith Sudilovsky

JERUSALEM (CNS) — The head of Caritas in Jerusalem said he would launch an international appeal to help with the Gaza Strip and would not wait until the end of Israeli-Hamas hostilities, as he had done in the past.

Father Raed Abusahlia, general director of Caritas Jerusalem, said on 18 July that more than 80,000 Palestinians had been displaced and 1,250 homes have been completely demolished in Israeli airstrikes and the invasion of Gaza in July. He said 80 percent of the Gaza Strip was without electricity and 90 percent of people did not have drinkable water.

“Families are leaving everything behind and they don’t know what they will be coming back to,” he told Catholic News Service. “It is very difficult. There will be a lot of work to do afterward.”

Israeli launched a ground offensive in Gaza on 17 July, and in an email to Father Abusahlia that night, Amin Sabbagh, Gaza Caritas staff coordinator, wrote: “We are facing heavy attack from the sea, from the air and from land. There are lots of explosions everywhere, and people are afraid. Children are scared and women are crying. The situation is impossible. We pray that the Lord brings his peace upon us.”

“This needs to stop on both sides,” Father Abusahlia said. “We would have liked Hamas to have accepted the [Israeli-proposed] cease-fire,” but Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, also wants “the lifting of the blockade and an opening of the crossings from both Israel and Egypt.”

“They don’t want just a cease-fire,” the priest said. Referring to the seven-year Israeli-imposed blockade of the Gaza Strip, he added, “1.7 million people in Gaza should not remain in the biggest prison.”

The priest said Gazans need hospital supplies. He said Caritas medical staff had been volunteering at local hospitals as well as helping where they could from their homes with the use of first aid kits distributed by Caritas after the fighting in 2012.

Despite calls by Hamas not to leave their homes, thousands of people in 14 targeted quarters heeded Israeli warnings and evacuated and were being sheltered in U.N. school buildings. Some Palestinians remained in their homes, fearing theft in tough economic times.

Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali of Jerusalem said the school at Holy Family Parish in Gaza had been opened to those fleeing their homes.

Bishop Shomali urged Palestinian and Israeli political leaders to accept Pope Francis’ call for an immediate cease-fire.

“Many innocent people have been killed. The human pride is terrible, and the result is the loss of innocent people,” Bishop Shomali said. “We need an immediate cease-fire both on southern Israel and in Gaza. People are afraid, tired, they don’t sleep.”

In Jerusalem, Matthew McGarry, country representative for Catholic Relief Services, told CNS he was in regular contact with staff in Gaza. He said they told him that although militants had been launching missiles in Israel from civilian areas, many people have also been killed by Israeli airstrikes in areas where there are no launch sites.

A young CRS intern and her family were killed while sitting in their house, he said.

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Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Jerusalem Israeli-Palestinian conflict Relief Water