Christian Groups Denounce Gaza Aid Cutoff

Christian relief groups have voiced concern over the current cutoff of Gaza civilians from much needed humanitarian aid.

Although Israel announced Tuesday plans to allow humanitarian and basic supplies into the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, plans are still in process and no aid other than some medical supplies have yet entered Gaza – which is isolated from the world after Israel and Egypt sealed all passageways.

"Israel has closed Gaza's borders, preventing the wounded from reaching medical care in Israel and the passage of aid supplies into Gaza," read the latest report on Gaza from U.K.-based Christian Aid.

"Israel must provide direct aid to civilians trapped in Gaza, 'as part of its ongoing responsibility as the occupying power still legally in control of the Gaza Strip,'" Christian Aid quoted its partner PHR (Physicians for Human Rights-Israel) saying.

Aid agencies estimate that 1.1 million of Gaza's 1.5 million people receive some form of food assistance, according to the New York Times.

Last week, the Islamic group Hamas took control of Gaza from its rival Fatah after five days of fighting. The conflict resulted in the death of over 100 people, Israel and Egypt sealing their borders to Gaza, and the dissolution of the Hamas-Fatah coalition government.

"We are blockaded," said Rima Al Rakhawi, a Christian Aid partner based in the southern Gaza Strip, in a report.

Rakhawi added, "Internal fighting is partly a reaction to the situation – lack of jobs and few opportunities. All of this is an expression of sadness, a pressure in their hearts, but this is not an excuse [for the gunmen's actions]."

Although experts say the situation in Gaza is not desperate yet, stock on fresh food items such as milk and meat are depleting and prices are rising.

Kirstie Campbell, of the United Nations World Food Program, said bakers have about five to six days of flour to make bread – a main stable in the Palestinian diet, according to the New York Times.

World Vision, Action by Churches Together, and Church World Service have also called for the two Palestinian warring factions to stop fighting, re-engage in negotiations, and respect humanitarian institutions.

"We appeal to all parties to the conflict to cease all hostilities and negotiate an end to the current crisis," said Charles Clayton, director of World Vision Jerusalem. World Vision, one of the world's largest aid and relief agencies, has suspended its activities in Gaza, and is updating its emergency response plans in the meantime.

"What children are enduring under the current situation is deeply troubling," Clayton stated. "The two Palestinian factions must do all they can to protect children's welfare and prioritize their safety."

The World Council of Churches general secretary, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, announced this week his plan to visit member churches and Christian communities in the occupied territories and Israel beginning on Thursday. During his visit he aims to express worldwide church solidarity with the churches in the Holy Land and convey concern for the future of both people affected by the conflict.

Christian Post correspondent Anne Thomas in London contributed to this report.