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A building brought down by Israeli airstrike in Rafah, southern Gaza, on May 20, 2021 A building brought down by Israeli airstrike in Rafah, southern Gaza, on May 20, 2021  (AFP or licensors)

Caritas Jerusalem: situation in Gaza “desperate” and “terrifying”

Caritas Jerusalem, the charity arm of the Catholic Church in the Palestinian territories, says that with extremely heavy bombing by Israel, almost round-the-clock, it is impossible to deliver aid to the people in Gaza.

By Robin Gomes

Despite mounting pressure from the United States to de-escalate, Israel is continuing its deadly offensive against Hamas in Gaza.  Another heavy barrage of airstrikes and artillery early Thursday morning killed at least one Palestinian and wounded several others in the densely populated enclave, from where Hamas militants have fired thousands of rockets into Israel.

Desperate and terrifying

With the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza showing no signs of abating, people in the densely enclave are desperate and the situation is terrifying, according to Caritas Jerusalem.

It is too dangerous for international charities and humanitarian organizations to access and bring aid to the people of Gaza, according to Sister Bridget Tighe, General Director Caritas Jerusalem in Gaza in an interview with Vatican News.  Speaking from her office in Jerusalem, the nun of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood (FMDM), said Israel’s airstrikes are indiscriminate and almost 24-hours-a-day. 

The latest fighting between Israel and Hamas erupted May 10, when the militant group fired long-range rockets toward Jerusalem after days of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a flashpoint site sacred to Jews and Muslims.

Another heavy barrage of airstrikes early Thursday morning killed at least one Palestinian and wounded several others in the densely populated enclave, from where Hamas militants have fired thousands of rockets into Israel.

Listen to Sr. Bridget Tighe, FMDM, General Director of Caritas Jerusalem.

At least 230 Palestinians have been killed, including 65 children and 39 women, with 1,710 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not break the numbers down into fighters and civilians. Some 58,000 Palestinians have fled their homes. Twelve people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy, a 16-year-old girl and a soldier, have been killed. 

“Different” type of war

Sr. Bridget has heard from people in Gaza that in this war, Israeli bombs are indiscriminate and much more powerful and of a different nature than in previous conflicts. They are used to hearing bombs coming and knowing, more or less, what the targets are. But this time, they hardly hear them coming until they explode near them.  “The bombs are falling almost 24-hours-a-day. Sometimes, there is a 2-hour break in the middle of the night, when people try to sleep and then it starts again,” Sr. Bridget said. 

Hospitals, schools and clinics are damaged and they have lost two senior doctors along with their families.  As roads are badly damaged, ambulances cannot travel.

The Caritas Jerusalem chief said estimates some 24 hours earlier put the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) at 72,000, of whom 47,000 were in United Nations-run schools and the rest were with host families. 

Impossible to deliver aid

“So with this extremely heavy bombing, almost 24-hours, it is impossible to deliver aid,” Bridget said. “Hospitals are struggling, clinics are doing what they can but aid organizations cannot travel because of the danger to their staff,” she said. “So Caritas Jerusalem cannot help the injured and displaced people until the air bombardment stops.”

She said when the airstrikes end, they will assess the needs in Gaza and let the international Caritas members know how they can help.  From what Sr. Bridget is hearing, this is a “totally different war”.

“People are desperate and the situation is terrifying.”

Gaza’s infrastructure, already weakened by a 14-year blockade, has rapidly deteriorated with the latest fighting. Medical supplies, water and fuel for electricity are running low in the territory, on which Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade after Hamas seized power in 2007.

Diplomatic efforts to secure a cease-fire are said to be gathering pace, with officials close to the talks saying they expect a truce to be announced soon. 

20 May 2021, 15:49