2014 Gaza crisis - your questions answered
8 July 2015
We answer your questions about the crisis in Gaza and our response.
What happened in July and August 2014?
On 8 July 2014 the Israeli military launched Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip. For seven weeks, the small Palestinian territory endured airstrikes, naval bombardment, mortar shells, artillery fire and a ground invasion that caused significant physical damage and loss of life. Israeli communities, especially in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip, came under rocket and mortar fire from Palestinian factions.
A ceasefire on 26 August ended the hostilities. More than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed, while 11,100 were injured and 108,000 made homeless. In Israel, 71 people died, four of whom were civilians, as well as one foreign national. In addition to the human toll, the war caused widespread destruction of homes, factories, farmland, water infrastructure, roads, schools, clinics and Gaza’s only power plant.
What were the humanitarian needs?
The violence and inability of the population to flee the fighting left people in Gaza exhausted and traumatised. Shelling devastated already weakened water and sanitation systems, leaving a large percentage of the population without water. Electricity supplies were cut off and sewage plants were bombed. More than 20,000 homes were destroyed.
Today, the majority of people in Gaza remain in need of humanitarian aid, including food, access to safe water and sanitation, healthcare, the reconstruction of homes and schools, counselling for trauma and support in making a living.
How has CAFOD been responding?
We launched our Gaza Crisis appeal in July 2014. You responded with enormous generosity, donating more than £450,000 to help us respond to the crisis. Thanks to your support, we have worked with Caritas Jerusalem, Catholic Relief Services and Islamic Relief to:
- Deliver hygiene kits at the height of the fighting
- Support mobile health clinics caring for people who were injured
- Rebuild nursery-schools, employing local people to carry out the work
- Provide hygiene kits and training in how to prevent the spread of disease
- Help farmers rehabilitate their land, so people grow crops and earn an income
- Provide support to children who have been traumatised by the fighting
As well as donating money, more than 25,000 CAFOD supporters from more than 300 parishes signed a petition calling for Philip Hammond, the UK Foreign Secretary, to push for a just and lasting peace.
In reply, the Foreign Office wrote: “We are clear that a political solution is required to the current crisis in Gaza if we are to avoid this suffering happening again. I can assure you all UK effort is focused to that end.”
How long has CAFOD been working in Gaza and what have you been doing?
We first supported Caritas Jerusalem in Gaza in 2006. We funded the establishment of six Caritas medical points which were to be staffed by volunteer doctors in times of extreme violence when it was not possible to reach hospitals or when those hospitals were overwhelmed. We supported Caritas to provide urgent medical support during the 2008-09 incursion. With DEC funding, we also supported CRS to undertake a rehabilitation programme in 2008-9, which involved rehabilitation of eight communal buildings, counselling support for community members, especially women and children, and youth community participation events.
From 2009 to 2012 we supported a specialised psychosocial counselling centre for children and their parents, run by Islamic Relief. The project targeted pre-school and school-age children for both individual and group counselling to help them overcome their trauma and stress from exposure to the violence.
We continue to support Islamic Relief on a water and sanitation project providing clean drinking water and hygiene education to women-headed households. We also work with Catholic Relief Services who are supporting communities to develop their disaster resilience and coping strategies as well as to establish small savings groups.
What does CAFOD think about what is happening in Gaza?
The Israeli closure of Gaza continues to have a devastating effect, as access to markets and people’s movement to and from the Gaza Strip remain severely restricted. The economy and its capacity to create jobs have been devastated, with the majority of the population becoming dependent on humanitarian aid to meet basic needs.
We condemn violence against civilians by all sides, including Israeli military actions and Hamas rocket fire, and call for all sides to protect civilians and adhere to the principles of international humanitarian law. Violence as a response to violence only results in more violence.
One year on from the start of fighting there has been little tangible change in the lives of the people of Gaza. The Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, established to facilitate the import of essential construction materials after the ceasefire, has been insufficient to facilitate any meaningful recovery.
The people of Gaza need to have the chance to rebuild their lives. They urgently require the material to repair homes, hospitals, infrastructure and schools. People also need the chance to rebuild their economy and again regain their dignity by providing for themselves. We strongly believe that the only way out of the cycle of violence is to address the root causes of the conflict: there needs to be an end to the occupation of Palestinian territory, to the building of illegal settlements and to the closure of Gaza.