CARITAS statement on Holy Land

 Catholic aid agency Caritas Internationalis has expressed shock at the 'violent and frightening' events happening now in the Holy Land. In a statement it says: 'The dramatic escalation in fighting over the last two weeks has resulted in a sharp increase in the number of casualties, both Israeli and Palestinian. We are grieving for all these innocent people who have so tragically lost their lives. 'We view with grave concern the massive assault on Palestinian cities, towns, and refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza. Under these circumstances, it is becoming increasingly difficult for organisations like Caritas Jerusalem to provide medicines, clothing, food, and other basic necessities to those who need it most, namely women, children, and the elderly. Ambulances are being prevented from saving lives and are even being shot at by the Israeli army. Palestinian clinics and hospitals are in need of medicines but cannot get them. Many children cannot go to school. There have been random shootings of civilians, including children and women, by Israeli soldiers at checkpoints. The showering of missiles on civilian areas by helicopters, F-16 bombers, and tanks is causing widespread terror. Israeli and Palestinian human rights defenders are prevented from doing their work. Journalists are denied access to areas where there is fighting, and some have been shot at by Israeli soldiers. 'Caritas Internationalis unreservedly condemns the attacks against Israeli civilians. The horrific attacks in Netanya and Jerusalem were clearly aimed at undermining any prospect for a political settlement. Once again, we stress that these acts also undermine the just cause of the Palestinian people. 'We have to understand the anger of the Israeli government and people. Yet, the current military operation in civilian populated areas of Palestine will only worsen the situation and create more hatred. As United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, stated on 29 March, "Such use of force will bring neither peace nor security to Israel." 'It is extremely regrettable that this military campaign was launched at a time when Saudi Arabia and the Arab League had put forward new proposals for peace, and the United Nations Security Council had adopted a US-led resolution in favour of a two-state solution. These were two very significant developments. 'There have been several wars in the Middle East over the past 50 years, all linked to one fundamental issue: land. As long as the illegal occupation of Palestine continues, there will be no peace. As the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, H.B. Michel Sabbah, has said on many occasions, the occupation -not terrorism - is the root cause of the problem." 'We are a faith-based Confederation. We see a vision of the future that restores hope. Fundamental to this is the human and moral imperative for a just peace based on understanding, forgiveness, and reconciliation. 'The international community must call for the immediate end of the current military operation in the Occupied Territories. 'We believe an international monitoring presence should be sent to the Occupied Territories, since this could be a deterrent to violence and the violation of human rights. 'There is also an urgent need to end the blockade of the Palestinian territories and to lift the measures that are deliberately ruining the Palestinian economy. The territories have been sealed off hermetically, thus fragmenting the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip into isolated, desperate enclaves. Agricultural crops have been devastated. Many people cannot go to work. The blockade is pushing ever more families below the poverty line. In addition, harassment, physical abuse, and humiliation of Palestinians of all ages at checkpoints are regular occurrences in the Occupied Territories. 'The world faces a grave challenge: the need to build a society where all members of the human family can flourish and live in a manner worthy of their innate dignity. 'The end of the occupation and the implementation of United Nations resolutions provide the basis for solving the problems between Palestinians and Israelis. The alternative is simply more bloodshed and more hatred. "No one can remain indifferent to the injustice of which the Palestinian people have been victims for more than fifty years. No one can contest the right of the Israeli people to live in security. But neither can anyone forget the innocent victims who on both sides fall day after day under the blows of violence. Weapons and bloody attacks will never be the right means for making a political statement to the other side. Nor is the logic of the law of retaliation capable any longer of leading to paths of peace." - Pope John Paul II 10 January 2002 UN aid agency CAFOD is a partner of CARITAS

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