Jerusalem Bishop 'Grieved' by Gaza Crisis

The Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem has expressed his dismay at the latest conflict to hit the Holy Land.

The Rt. Rev. Suheil S. Dawani said in a statement that his diocese was "stunned and saddened" as well as "grieved by the severity" of the ongoing military operations in Gaza.

As Israel indicated on Wednesday that the conflict could run on for weeks, Bishop Dawani reaffirmed the "unbroken commitment" of the Diocese of Jerusalem to the wellbeing and peace of people in Gaza, particularly through its Al Ahli Arab Hospital.

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At least 373 Palestinians have been killed in the four days since Israel began its aerial attack in retaliation to rockets fired into its territory by Hamas militants last week. Gaza medics estimate that at least 1,700 people have been wounded.

Dawani called on both sides to halt the violence.

"The heavy loss of Palestinian lives and the serious wounds and injuries to many hundreds of innocent bystanders require the immediate cessation of hostilities for the well being and safety of both the Palestinian and Israeli communities, and especially for Gaza and the nearby Israeli population centers.

"The gravity of the situation threatens to engulf this entire region and we ask the Palestinians and Israelis to return to active negotiations for the well being and safety of both communities."

Christian aid agency World Vision is one of many NGOs calling for a cessation in the violence and "a return to an environment conducive to children." The agency said its immediate focus was advocacy.

"Whatever the cause of the conflict, we are advocating for a complete cessation of violence and for the protection of civilians, especially children," said Allyn Dhynes, Advocacy Manager of World Vision's office in Jerusalem.

Dhynes condemned both sides for resorting to violence.

"We utterly condemn Hamas's rocket attacks on Israeli civilians but we cannot justify this overwhelming military action by the Israelis which is killing and injuring many innocent civilians," he said.

National Director for World Vision in Jerusalem Charles Clayton added, "As soon as the dust settles, literally, we will pick up the pieces and rebuild the work we started successfully in this area years ago."

The co-chairs of the Christian Muslim Forum, Imam Dr. Musharraf Hussain, and the Bishop of Kingston, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Richard Cheetham, have joined calls for all parties in the conflict to work towards re-establishing a ceasefire and appealed to Christians and Muslims to pray for peace.

Christian Aid said hospitals in Gaza were overwhelmed and under-resourced in the face of so many wounded.

Dr. Iaad Yaghi of Christian Aid partner Palestinian Medical Relief Societies, said, "The hospitals in Gaza were already suffering from shortages of medicines and spare parts for their equipment. "They are completely unable to treat the 1,000 new casualties that have been caused by the assault.

"Of these, 300 cases are critical. There are only 2,000 beds in the whole of the Gaza Strip and all non emergency cases have been discharged."

Christian Aid called for a "swift and robust" UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire and "unfettered" humanitarian access to Gaza.

"Without that, peace in the Middle East will not materialize," the aid agency warned.

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