Fighting between the Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah in the Gaza Strip has intensified, highlighting the urgent need for the international community to end the isolation and blockade on the Palestinian government, say churches and NGOs.
Violent clashes have left over 90 people killed and hundreds wounded in four days, as gunmen grapple for control of the security forces.
The violence has had a big impact on local services, including health care facilities. Hospitals are at a point of near collapse.
The development agency Christian Aid and its partner Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR) has condemned the violation of the human rights of Palestinians by these armed factions and PHR is calling on the gunmen to immediately "cease the mutual bloodshed and protect the lives of the sick, the wounded and medical personnel."
Israel has closed Gaza’s borders, preventing the wounded from reaching medical care in Israel and the passage of aid supplies into Gaza. PHR says that 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’.
"We are blockaded," said Rima Al Rakhawi, a Christian Aid partner based in the southern Gaza Strip. "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]."
After the refusal of the Quartet powers [US, UN, EU and Russia] and Israel to negotiate with Hamas, the Palestinian Authority (PA) formed a unity government in February, which included Fatah, hoping that this would allow for a return to negotiations. But the Quartet continued to suspend aid to the PA and would not meet with the unity government.
Christian Aid released a statement in February 2007 saying that if the fragile unity government was to succeed it would need support and an "end to the isolation of the PA that has exacerbated poverty and insecurity."
The statement also said that "positive political engagement can help to lay the groundwork for peace, rather than exacerbating tensions."
The agency also released a report on 4 June 2007, 'Israel and Palestine: A Question of Viability', that appealed to the international community to act urgently for a viable solution in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
This was not the first time that Christian Aid has appealed to the UK government and its EU partners to act. We have consistently voiced the concern of our Palestinian and Israeli partners, that without an immediate and impartial intervention that deals with the causes of the conflict, there will be further bloodshed, poverty and despair.
Recent events in the Gaza Strip have further confirmed Christian Aid’s fears. Christian Aid calls on those who do have the power to end the ongoing violence in the region, to act, whether that be Palestinian factions, Israel and the international community, says Christian Aid.
It adds: "We once again call on the international community to end its economic and political isolation of the Palestinian Authority. The alternative is not an option – as civilians caught up in the violence will testify."