Gaza and Nablus: emergency report from Caritas Jerusalem

 Since the attacks on Gaza began, the situation in what was already one of desperate poverty has deteriorated dramatically. The death toll - from injuries as well as illness is increasing by the hour. Caritas Jerusalem sent the following report update this morning: "IDF tanks moved into the Al Maghazi refugee camp before dawn Wednesday under cover of machine gun fire from troops in the latest incursion in its three-week military push in the seaside territory. 14 people, including children, were wounded when tank shells hit two houses in the camp, hospital officials said. A total of 52 people were wounded in the incursions, the hospital officials said. (Haaretz newspaper, July 20 2006) In the West Bank city of Nablus, at least three Palestinians were killed Wednesday in exchanges of fire after an IDF paratrooper unit surrounded a compound in Nablus. IDF forces killed a fourth Palestinian later Wednesday, during clashes with stone-throwers in Nablus. IDF bulldozers razed part of the compound. By early Wednesday afternoon, dozens of Palestinians, including security officers, had exited the compound in surrender. (Haaretz newspaper, July 20 2006) The Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Karen AbuZayd, denounced on Tuesday the destruction caused by the Israeli forces to UNRWA properties in the town of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. "What has happened cannot be accepted. This is terrible and cannot happen at a time when UNRWA is exerting efforts to rebuild the houses of Palestinian refugees in Rafah and Khan Younis". "The number of houses that the Israeli forces destroyed in Beit Hanoun is up to 60 houses; [this is] in addition to the partial destruction of UNRWA schools and its clinics". She explained that there are more than 6000 students who study in these schools that require urgent renovation. Meanwhile, Beit Hanoun mayor, Muhammad Al Kafarnah, has estimated the cost of damages caused by the Israeli forces during their invasion and raids in the town over the last two days, to be approximately US $6 million. He said that this in addition to a further US $1 million cost of damages as a result of the Israeli sabotage a week ago. ( Direct actions taken by Caritas Jerusalem on behalf of the people in Gaza - Caritas Jerusalem has distributed 23 first aid kits to qualified doctors according to a plan conducted in partnership with the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Additional requests have been received for ten (10) more of these kits. A report on this project will be shared shortly. - Caritas Jerusalem is currently undertaking a food coupon distribution plan for 750 very poor families through our Caritas Jerusalem Gaza Medical Center and in conjunction with the Middle East Council of Churches and Fr. Manuel Musallam, the Parish priest in Gaza. Upon completion, we will provide a detailed report of this distribution. - Caritas Jerusalem is presently supporting the project to be undertaken in coordination with the heads of churches in Jerusalem to bring 3,000 food parcels by a convoy of religious leaders to Gaza. We hope to undertake this convoy next week provided that the church leaders can secure permits to enter Gaza. - Additional contributions have arrived for the Caritas Jerusalem Special Operations Appeal (SOA) and we are currently programming those funds for targeted projects which are currently in the greatest need in Gaza. - Many private donors have also contributed smaller sums to the SOA. We wish to thank all those who have given donations. These include individuals, people collecting donations through churches and parishes, through non-profit organizations and through private businesses with some expressions of up to $100 (USD) and with individual donations as much as $5,000 (USD). - Caritas Jerusalem is also working to reprioritize the budget that was submitted in the SOA project to better reflect the current situation that has developed here in the country since June 28, 2006 as the SOA request was submitted on May 19, 2006. The situation since that time has rapidly deteriorated and priorities that were presented in the SOA released in May 2006 do not necessarily reflect the urgent emergency needs facing Gaza in particular and secondarily the West Bank. Caritas Jerusalem demands that all parties to reject violence and make every effort to restore some sense of calm and orderliness. Killing, aggression, hostage taking and efforts to harm a civilian population are wrong and must be condemned in the strongest terms with a view to end them immediately. The people in Gaza and the West Bank do not need nor do they want any more food aid and handouts. They want justice and peace. Please contact your religious leaders and or elected representatives and demand from them to act to ensure that the situation in Palestine, Israel and Lebanon not be allowed to spiral out of control and descend into a deeper abyss of despair, hopelessness and violence than already exists. The region of Gaza particularly needs to see an end to violence. Join us in prayer for all the people of this region. Source: Caritas Jerusalem

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