Gaza: Caritas MONA appeals for ceasefire, aid access, humanitarian law
By Linda Bordoni
Expressing grief for the death of Caritas colleague, 26-year-old Viola who was killed alongside her husband and infant daughter in an airstrike on the St Porphyrios Orthodox Church in Gaza three weeks ago, the regional director of Caritas MONA highlights the human tragedy unfolding in Gaza and emphasizes the need to recognize the value of every single human being affected by the conflict.
Some 11,000 people have been killed in just over a month in the Gaza Strip since Israel launched its retaliatory attacks against Hamas on 7 October, Viola “was one of 18 people who were killed during the airstrike that hit the Orthodox Church” three weeks ago, said Karam Abi Yazbeck, “one of thousands who have been killed."
Caritas is mourning her together with her friends and family, he continued, "But everyone is important to someone. So beyond the huge numbers [of deaths] reported every day, remember that every human being is important on this earth, and we hope that this will stop from both sides.”
Challenges in aid delivery
Caritas MONA is the Catholic Church’s humanitarian arm in the Middle East and North Africa. Although the catastrophic humanitarian crisis caused by the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas is a top priority, Karam says the severe limitations in delivering humanitarian aid to blockaded Gaza are posing a huge challenge to all aid workers.
He pointed out that in Gaza the situation is critical because it is impossible to deliver food aid, medical aid or fuel “which is needed for power to have electricity and to keep emergency rooms, intensive care units and surgical theatres operating.”
The situation, Karam said, is further complicated by similar challenges in the West Bank where tension is increasing every day and where many need aid. But Caritas members, he explained are unable to travel between cities since 8 October, hindering their ability to provide crucial assistance.
“Our staff now are blocked in their places, in their villages or cities, and they are not able to run the activities that they used to do,” he said.
Constant contact with Gaza
Karam notes that thanks to daily updates from George Anton, the director of Caritas operations in Gaza, the organization has a clear picture of the needs of the people.
“Staff members in Jerusalem are present by phone, providing psychological support, listening and trying to assist remotely,” he said, explaining that Caritas is in contact with many refugees who have found shelter in the Latin Church in Gaza “where they still have fuel for a generator that can last maximum two weeks.”
“Afterwards, we don’t know what might happen,” he added.
Besides the fear generated by the relentless attacks, the airstrike, and lately also the ground invasion by the Israeli army that is inside northern Gaza, Karam says most Caritas staff and the Christian community in northern Gaza were asked to leave to go to the south “but it's not possible because many of them are disabled, are sick or elderly and there is no way to move them in this situation.“
A terrifying situation
As a Lebanese, Karam recalls the fear he felt during the war in 2006 and says it is a terrifying situation for those inside the Gaza Strip.
“It is terrible and we hope that a ceasefire might be approved or applied soon so at least people can survive what's going on, “ he said.
Caritas MONA's appeal
Karam outlined Caritas MONA's threefold appeal in collaboration with Caritas Internationalis.
1: A ceasefire “to save lives.”
2: Humanitarian access “to provide essential aid to those inside Gaza, because even if the bombing stops, they cannot survive without basic aid.”
3: The application of International Humanitarian Law, and the recognition that “what started on October 7 is not the main cause of the conflict.” This aspect, he explained, is important in order to address the root causes for a lasting solution to the crisis.
The Pope’s appeals
Expressing gratitude for Pope Francis' repeated appeals for a ceasefire and for the possibility of delivering humanitarian aid, Karam says the moral authority of the Pope's messages brings hope to the people of Gaza and demonstrates global concern for their plight.
He also upheld the words and appeal of Archbishop Caccia, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York, who also asked for an immediate ceasefire and the respect of International Law.
However, Karam continued, there is a need for continued support and attention to alleviate the desperate situation faced by those on the ground.
As Caritas MONA focuses its efforts on the Gaza crisis, Karam noted that a broader humanitarian approach is needed to tackle conflicts worldwide.
“Not long time ago, we were talking about the crisis, the war in Syria; a few years later, the crisis started in East Europe, mainly in Ukraine, but also in other countries. So Syria was left in the shade and the focus was on Ukraine,” he said.
And noting the current tension in Armenia and Kosovo, that attention he continued, is again on the Holy Land.
So many people are losing their lives due to these human-made crises, Karam concluded, “So maybe the most important thing that we can call for is a more humanitarian approach to conflicts, and the quest for justice, for peace.”
Otherwise, different populations will continue to struggle across the world.
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