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Cordaid NL
Humanitarian Aid Palestina

Gaza: ‘At the mercy of intense air bombardment with nowhere to flee’

Caritas Internationalis, of which Cordaid is a member, has launched a special appeal to bring medical care to the population affected by the ongoing shelling in Gaza. Colleagues from Caritas Jerusalem prepare to respond to the urgent needs of the thousands that are injured. And to those who are forced to leave their homes.

“The bombings are extremely heavy. The people of Gaza have lived through many wars over many years. But everyone agrees that this time it is completely different. They are trapped in this densely populated strip of land at the mercy of intense air bombardment with nowhere to flee for safety.” This is how Sr. Bridget Tighe, Secretary-General of Caritas Jerusalem, described the situation.

“Previously they knew the sound of a bomb coming and they had some idea of what the targets were. This time it seems to be indiscriminate. They explode suddenly, they don’t hear them coming.”

In Gaza, more than two million people live in an area of approximately 141 square miles.

‘This time it’s different’

“I’ve spoken to people who live there and they said – these are older people that lived through many wars and know what it is to be bombed – that this time it is different,” Sister Bridget Tighe explains in a video message. “They all said the same thing, this is completely different. Previously they knew the sound of a bomb coming and they had some idea of what the targets were. But this time it seems to be indiscriminate. The bombs are either much heavier or of a different kind. They explode suddenly, they don’t hear them coming and the ground shakes.”

Sister Bridget Tighe from Caritas Jerusalem:

Thousands seek shelter in schools

Since 2007, the Gaza Strip has been under a total blockade controlled by Israel. Egypt controls a small southern section. Therefore, civilians have nowhere to hide from bombardments. They do not even have the possibility of fleeing as refugees by land or sea. People try to save their lives seeking shelter in schools, where, by 14 May, 17,000 had already found shelter.

Repeated attacks on civilians and infrastructure

According to the local Ministry of Health, the total death toll in Gaza is currently (May 16) 197 people, including 58 children and 34 women. Among the victims are a mother and four of her children. They were killed in an airstrike on residential buildings in the Al Shati Refugee camp. This is close to the Caritas clinic, which is currently closed.

Gaza, Caritas staff providing medical aid. © Caritas

Due to repeated attacks on civilians and infrastructure, Caritas had to close the clinic because of the high risk of collateral damage. The shelling also destroyed large sections of main roads, preventing ambulances from transporting the wounded to hospitals.

10 Israelis, including children, are reported to have been killed by Palestinian rockets.

Read more about the Caritas Internationalis appeal to ensure healthcare in Gaza.

The senseless cycle of violence must stop

Cordaid is dismayed by the ongoing air raids on the densely populated Gaza Strip. We reiterate the UN Secretary General’s appeal for an immediate cessation of hostilities. He told the Security Council that the senseless cycle of bloodshed must stop. “The fighting has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis and to foster extremism. Not only in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel but in the region as a whole.”

Cordaid believes the only way to end the cycle of bloodshed is for all parties to abide by international law. This includes ending Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine and decades of violent oppression. We implore all conflicting parties to assure humanitarian access, allowing aid workers to reach out to people in dire need.