UN humanitarian agency "at breaking point" in Gaza

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Two-year-old palestinian girl injured by bombing
Two-year-old Palestinian girl Naama Abu al-Foul undergoes treatment at Gaza City’s Al-Shifa hospital following Israeli bombing next to her family’s home in the battered city on July 23, 2014. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg strongly urged the FAA to “reverse course” and permit U.S. airlines to fly to Israel. Bloomberg released a statement saying he is flying on El Al to Tel Aviv on Tuesday night to “show solidarity with the Israeli people and to demonstrate that it is safe to fly in and out of Israel.” Image: Mahmud Hamsahmud/AFP/Getty

UPDATE Friday August 1, 2014: Less than three hours into a mutually agreed temporary ceasefire between Israel military forces and Hamas militia agents in Gaza, a 72 hour truce has been broken as reports come in stating that two Israeli soldiers in Gaza have been killed and one has been captured by Hamas militia members. Further investigations are in process to know if the exact time of the Hamas attack on the Israeli soldiers took place before or after the commencement of the truce. In response to the Hamas attack Israeli bombing began again on Friday with what is thought to be an additional 50 deaths in Gaza.

(WNN) Denver, U.S., AMERICAS: As the crisis in the Middle East intensifies, the people of Gaza are reaching epic proportions of displacement and suffering in what a United Nations humanitarian relief agency has conveyed to be for their humanitarian efforts “a breaking point.”

“Let me begin by reinforcing last night’s call of the Security Council, calling for an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire. As the world marks Eid al-Fitr, it is time for an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire. In the name of humanity, the violence must stop,” said a spokesperson for the Office for the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon yesterday.

The Jabaliya displacement camp school is located in Gaza. It is operated by the UN through management by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), an agency that began operations at the UN for over 60 years. All UN displacement schools are supposed to be safe-havens. The Jabaliya school is where approximately 3,300 Gazans were also assured that the school would be safe from the ongoing bombing between Hamas and the government of Israel.

But it didn’t work that way.

In spite of reassurances a bomb fell on the school building yesterday killing what is now counted as more than 15 people. Four children were also killed, with 90 or more injured.

To date seven UNRWA humanitarian workers have been killed during the Israeli/Hamas conflict. This bombing came after what Israel claims was an adequate warning to evacuate the school. But where do 3,300 people go as they attempt to evacuate quickly from a building they already considered to be secure?, ask international humanitarian advocates.

“We are completely overwhelmed. This is a cry from the heart. We can’t go on, we’ve reached breaking point…It’s intolerable that humanitarian workers are paying such an inordinately high price. It’s got to stop,” said UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness during an interview with Al Jazeera news as he broke down sobbing.

Gunness has been a personal witness up-close to the most recent injury impacts on children due to conflict between the government of Israel and the military arm of Hamas in Gaza as the situation has reached beyond what he conveys as ‘the point of crisis’.

The Gaza Strip is a young region. Over 40 percent of Gaza’s population is under the age of 15. And in a 2012 count by UNRWA 225,000 of its inhabitants were considered to be schoolchildren. Today they are some of the most vulnerable members of Gazan society to face the current conflict.

Winning only a slight majority among voters inside Gaza in the 2006 citizens election, Hamas officially took over many of the daily operations of Gaza’s government in 2007. Today’s conflict has caused a growing number of Palestinians to plea for both Hamas and the government of Israel to agree immediately to a prolonged ceasefire in order to save lives.

Their plea has not come from compassion alone, but from hard experience.

As conditions for Gazans under the 2007 blockade continue, Nobel Peace Prize Laureates including Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Jody Williams, Desmond Tutu and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel are speaking out again against the increased hardship for families living inside the region.

As support and popularity for Hamas has declined steadily inside Gaza’s borders hardship and suffering for its citizens has increased. The decline has been documented through an internal March 2013 poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Research. Their survey shows numbers that support a clear steady decline in Gazan support for Hamas.

In spite of this political peace between Gaza and Israel seems to be more illusive than ever as both sides in the conflict refuse to negotiate a sustainable ceasefire.

“UNRWA urges deliberate international political action on but will the Security Council engage?,” said UNRWA spokesperson Gunness in a personal tweet on his Twitter account today as he highlighted a link to UN sessions happening today that cover the crisis.

“If victory is measured by the success at causing lifelong trauma to 1.8 million people (and not for the first time) waiting to be executed any moment – then the victory is yours,” said Amira Hass who is working as a staff correspondent in the Occupied Territories for Israel’s news daily, Haaretz newspaper, on Monday July 28.

The intensification of bomb strikes that are reaching the ground inside the Gaza region amount to a clear break in international law, say over 140 law experts, human rights advocates and international diplomats in a recent released joint statement titled, “The International Community Must End Israel’s Collective Punishment of the Civilian Population in the Gaza Strip.”

“These victories add up to our moral implosion, the ethical defeat of a society that now engages in no self-inspection, that wallows in self pity over postponed airline flights and burnishes itself with the pride of the enlightened.This is a society that mourns, naturally, its more than 40 soldiers who were killed, but at the same time hardens its heart and mind in the face of all the suffering and moral courage and heroism of the people we are attacking. A society that does not understand the extent to which the balance of forces is against it,” continued Hass.

Agreeing to a 72 hour humanitarian truce in efforts to give civilians in Gaza a break from the ongoing violence under conflict, new negotiations for a sustainable ceasefire will begin in Cairo, Egypt this Friday morning at 8 am. Delegates from Israel will be meeting in Cairo with members of Hamas from Gaza as well as members of the Palestinian political party Fatah from the West Bank. They will be discussing separate points in the possibility of a continued ceasefire.

Negotiations for the 72 hour ceasefire was aided by officials in Qatar, who worked through negotiations to bring the opposing officials to the table in Cairo. In the meantime, those who remain in Gaza hold tight to the possibility of peace.

“In all the suffering and death,” wrote a friend from Gaza, “there are so many expressions of tenderness and kindness. People are taking care of one another, comforting one another. Especially children who are searching for the best way to support their parents. I saw many children no older than 10 years old who are hugging, comforting their younger siblings, trying to distract them from the horror. So young and already the caretakers of someone else. I did not meet a single child who did not lose someone – a parent, grandmother, friend, aunt or neighbor. And I thought: If Hamas grew out of the generation of the first intifada, when the young people who threw stones were met with bullets, who will grow out of the generation that experienced the repeated massacres of the last seven years?” Hass added as she shared her eye-witness experience of the region.


In the early morning of 30 July, a UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school in Jabaliya, in the northern Gaza Strip, which sheltered about 3,300 people, was shelled, resulting in multiple deaths and injuries. Commissioner-General of UNRWA Pierre Krahenbuhl outlines details of the attack in a public statement made following the bombing. UNRWA works directly with displaced Palestinians in the region. This 3:07 min July 31, 2014 video is a UNRWA Youtube release.


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