OPT: CWS situation report - Gaza crisis 18 Jun 2007

SITUATION: Amid tentative signs that the situation in Gaza Strip was emerging from a crisis situation after a week of violence and uncertainty, the European Union said it plans to restore humanitarian aid to the beleaguered Palestinian Authority. That follows the Fatah-allied government's move to cut off ties with the radical faction Hamas, which now controls the Gaza Strip.

Runs on markets in Gaza in the wake of fears of food shortages had subsided with assurances from Israel that some humanitarian assistance would go into Gaza, the Associated Press (AP) news agency reported today.

Still, as Action by Churches Together (ACT) International reported, the coming days and weeks could see a deepening instability in economic and social conditions, translating into thousands of families having no access to food, cash, medical care and other needed essentials, particularly as the new school year approaches.

Last week's fighting left more than 100 dead and hundreds more wounded, with extensive damage done to an already weak infrastructure. Hospitals became battlegrounds and medical staff members were unable to report to work.

RESPONSE: In a roundup of responses by CWS and its partners within the ACT network:

- On June 16, Church World Service issued a statement (www.churchworldservice.org), with CWS Executive Director John McCullough urging the United States to provide 'full and unfettered diplomatic support for an accelerated solution to both the current crisis and the long-term cause of the Palestinian people."

- Augusta Victoria Hospital -- a Lutheran World Federation (LWF) institution that has long received assistance by Church World Service and other ACT members -- is facing immediate uncertainty in its work because many of its support funds were channeled through the Palestinian Authority.

- The Department for Service to Palestinian Refugees (DSPR) of the Middle East Council of Churches is currently preparing an emergency proposal for ACT Rapid Response Funds to provide needed medical services and cash assistance to families in Gaza in the coming months.

DSPR's Bernard Sabella in a statement issued July 14, said: '(l)ike other Palestinians, we in DSPR are concerned that this developing situation will further impoverish and dis-empower our people. We have appealed to the various factions, as hundreds of our people have done on the streets of Gaza and elsewhere in the West Bank, to stop this madness.'

'The continuing infighting and all counter measures proposed would in effect spell the end to the possibilities of a shared vision for our future that could combine both the religious and the secular in Palestinian politics. We cannot but admit it: we are in deep political crisis that can spell over onto social, cultural, economic and in fact all other spheres of life. Palestinians of all factions are called upon to help find a way out.'

For further information about disasters to which Church World Service is responding please visit www.churchworldservice.org or call the CWS Hotline, (800) 297-1516.

CWS Emergency Response Program special contacts: (212) 870-3151

Program Director: dderr@churchworldservice.org

International: flumeya@churchworldservice.org

Domestic: lreedbrown@churchworldservice.org