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Palestine conflict: Put the people first

As the Palestinian territories teeter on the brink of civil war, the people of Gazaand surrounds continue to suffer most from the violence.

With dozens of people, many of them civilians, killed over the past week in the raging conflict between President Abbas' Fatah faction and ruling Hamas militant faction, aid organisations like Caritas Jerusalem are struggling to provide vital food, shelter and medical services.

Overnight, Dr Bandalay Sayegh, Director of one of the few operating medical facilities, Caritas Jerusalem's Gaza Medical Centre, indicated the hospital would cease to operate today due to the extreme danger of the conflict situation.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the peak body for aid coordination and delivery in the Gazastrip, said fighting had spilled over into their premises yesterday.

As a result three of UNRWA's five food distribution centers and seven of UNRWA's eighteen health clinics were forced to close as fighting raged.

More than 80% of the total refugee population - in excess of one million people - are completely reliant on aid in the conflict riven area.

Civilians continue to bear the brunt of the conflict suffering from a lack of clean water, food and medical services.

Jack de Groot, CEO of Caritas Australiasaid " The violence is compounding an already dreadful humanitarian situation for civilians. The vast majority of the refugee population is totally aid dependant; the economy has collapsed under the weight of the international economic embargo leaving already ravaged Palestinian refugee population in unprecedented misery and despair".

"Services such as the Caritas hospital and education services are some of the very few institutions able to meet basic services and these are now collapsing due to lack of resources and violence"

"We call on all Palestinian leaders to use their influence to urgently resolve their disputes through peaceful means. The disregard shown for human life in this senseless conflict must end immediately".

"Humanitarian organisations need urgent access to the affected populations to deliver clean water, food and medical supplies. The need for humanitarian corridors to enable access to affected civilians is urgent and the Palestinian leadership has a responsibility for the safety and security of their people to ensure these corridors and humanitarian actors and civilians are protected from the fighting.'

For more information contact Tim O'Connor 0417 284 831