CAFOD expresses grave concern over the violence at Israeli-Gaza border protests
18 May 2018
Palestinians in Gaza have been demonstrating each Friday since 30 March in the ‘Great March of Return’.
In largely community-based gatherings of citizens, young and old, people share stories of the villages their families fled in 1948, sing songs and cook food before they march to the border and call for freedom.
The protests were due to conclude on 14 May with the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem and on 15 May with the anniversary of Palestinian displacement in 1948, when the State of Israel was created.
Since the protests began, Israel has been responding with lethal force. On 14 May alone more than 60 Palestinians were killed with live fire from Israeli soldiers and over 2,700 injured.
The Gaza Strip along with the West Bank including East Jerusalem, has been under Israeli occupation since 1967. The closure of Gaza covers land, sea and air space and was tightened more than 10 years ago. Almost two million Palestinians in Gaza remain ‘locked in’. They are denied free access to the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory and the outside world. They cannot exercise their fundamental rights to safe water, adequate health care, work or mobility.
The current situation is unsustainable. The closure has undermined the living conditions in Gaza and fragmented the occupied Palestinian territory and its economic and social fabric.
Mary Lucas, CAFOD’s Middle East Country Representative, returned recently from Gaza. She said:
“We are deeply distressed by the loss of life in Gaza. People I met there spoke of hopelessness and despair, especially among the young, and they fear what will come next. The protests are intended to claim back dignity and tell the world the people of Gaza will not be forgotten.
“While the diplomatic community, including the UK Government, wait for an American-led peace initiative, the people of Gaza have dire humanitarian needs that cannot wait.
“Eleven years of the closure of Gaza by Israel has resulted in siege-like conditions, with food, medicines, and fuel running critically low. The numbers of deaths and injuries during the protests have brought hospitals and health services to collapsing point. This recent escalation in violence threatens hopes for a peaceful solution for both Israelis and Palestinians.”
Pope Francis’ call for reconciliation
Pope Francis used his Easter Sunday address to call for "reconciliation for the Holy Land," in an apparent reference to violence on the Israeli-Gaza border.
On 15 May, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, called all Christians (of the Diocese) to “join in prayer for the Holy Land, the peace of all its inhabitants, for the peace of Jerusalem, for the victims of this interminable conflict of the Holy Land”.
Mary Lucas said: “We are calling on Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to urge Israel to show respect for life and restraint towards those demonstrating in Gaza, to call for an independent investigation into recent events in Gaza and put the UK government’s weight behind a renewed effort to end the closure of Gaza."
Pray for reconciliation in this holy land
Prayer is powerful, and it underpins all that we do at CAFOD. We can show solidarity with our brothers and sisters in this holy land during these troubled times, by remembering that we are united in one world, one body and one Christ.
Please join us in praying for peace and reconciliation for this holy land.
How you can respond to the pope’s call
You can respond to Pope Francis’ and the local Church’s call for reconciliation. Israelis and Palestinians both need security, peace and to live in dignity, free from injustice, if communities are to flourish and contribute meaningfully to the common good.
Together with our partners, we believe that suffering, injustice, violence and war will only end when the occupation ends. Ending the closure of Gaza is an important step to achieving this.
It is time for a renewed effort to end the closure of Gaza.
Please email the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson and ask him to:
- support calls for a comprehensive, independent and transparent investigation into recent events in Gaza
- lead, as a matter of urgency, a renewed effort to end the closure of Gaza
- to give strength to re-establishing a meaningful peace process