OPT: Caritas says humanitarian access must be guaranteed in Gaza

News and Press Release
Originally published
Vatican City, 22 June 2007 - Caritas has re-started its medical operations in the Gaza Strip, which had been suspended after a week of violence in Palestine. But Caritas says innocent civilians trapped by the fighting along the Gazaborder must have access to humanitarian aid.

Palestinians in Gazarely on fuel, food, and medicine imported through Israelto survive. The Israeli government controls the borders and Caritas says they must ensure that these crucial supplies still get through.

The Caritas Confederation works through Caritas Jerusalem. They operate a medical centre and a mobile medical clinic that works in six specific areas in Gaza, providing healthcare to 20,000 people.

Operations resumed last Saturday after a week of fighting between Hamas and Fatah parties left Hamas in control of the Gaza Strip. Caritas staff warned that while they have supplies for two months, Gazadoes not have enough in storage to survive a long closure of its borders.

Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Lesley-Anne Knight said: "The Palestinians in Gazamust not become a forgotten people, cut off from the outside world. Whatever the political or military situation in Gaza, innocent Palestinian civilians must not pay the cost.

"It is against International Humanitarian Law to prevent people from receiving humanitarian aid. Caritas wants to see a humanitarian corridor to Gazaso that medical and food supplies can reach the needy."

Director of the Caritas projects in Gaza, Dr. Bandalay Al Sayegh characterizes the situation in Gazaas "very unstable."

He said: "Generally speaking, people are afraid. They are staying at home. While our medical centre is open, we have seen very few patients coming to the clinic. People are staying home and are only leaving their homes if an urgent need is present.

"Gaza's hospitals faced huge demands during this period of fighting. There are over 500 patients with gun shot wounds and there is a lack of specialized surgeons to treat these injuries. Our hospitals need fuel supplies to continue treating patients. If these are cut, this will cause the death of many people."

Caritas Internationalis is a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development, and social service organisations present in over 200 countries and territories.

Nancy McNally, media officer Tel: +39 06 69879752 Mobile: +39 334 2344 136 mcnally@caritas.va www.caritas.org