Christian Aid says it is appalled at the spiralling levels of violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory and calls for an immediate ceasefire to protect innocent civilians from paying the ultimate price for political failure.
The UK based churches' global development agency has urged the UK government to give its full support to ensure a ceasefire is brokered now.
Recent weeks have seen the horrific deaths of abducted teenagers in Jerusalem and Hebron, sustained rocket fire into Israel and Israeli warplanes, naval vessels and tanks attacking Gaza; often targeting populated areas and civilian facilities in the Gaza strip, including people’s homes.
Several hundred rockets have been fired from Gaza and it has been reported that one Israeli civilian and two Israeli soldiers have been injured.
Several hundred Israeli airstrikes have taken place since the latest military offensive began on 7 July and have killed 80 Palestinians, including 22 children, and injured more than 570 people, according to UN figures.
Most of the dead and injured appear to have been civilians, despite Israeli claims that it is targeting militants. Two days ago there were reports that a missile which hit a cafe in Khan Younis, Gaza, where football fans were watching the semi-final of the World Cup, killed six and injured 15.
The air strikes have also destroyed or rendered uninhabitable an estimated 342 homes in Gaza, displacing about 2,000 people, most of whom have moved in with relatives.
There is now a severe shortage of medical supplies in hospitals treating the injured, says Christian Aid, and the Gaza Ministry of Health has warned the health system is close to collapse. On Thursday afternoon (10 July)there were reports that three ambulances had been destroyed by rocket fire.
Janet Symes, Christian Aid’s Head of Middle East said: “An immediate ceasefire is critical to stop innocent civilians paying the ultimate price. Access to adequate healthcare, fuel and food is under serious threat; this destruction needs to end so that people can get the help they so desperately need.
“It is due to the failure of peace talks and lack of genuine effort to find a viable solution to the conflict that we are witnessing yet more innocent civilian casualties. If the international community does not act with urgency to both stop the situation escalating and pursue an inclusive and comprehensive peace, then they will be condemning yet more innocent people to despair.
“Christian Aid implores all Israelis and Palestinians to take urgent steps in order to avoid more civilian deaths and suffering, and find a long term solution to end the conflict. We urge the UK government to put its full backing behind efforts to broker a ceasefire now.”
Christian Aid partner, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, says the airstrikes are repeated breaches of international law. During active hostilities, only fighters and military objectives may be targeted. Civilians and civilian objects should be protected.
Israel has warned that it is preparing troops for a possible ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, heightening fears of further escalation of violence.
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said the situation there "is on a knife-edge", urging Israel and Palestinian militants to end hostilities, with a warning that the “region cannot afford another full blown war”. The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on Thursday afternoon, where Ban Ki-moon stated that it is more urgent than ever to avoid another Israeli-Palestinian war and is urging both leaders to show statesmanship and agree to an immediate cease-fire.