On 27 December 2008, Israel began a bombardment of the Gaza Strip.News agencies are reporting that it was the single deadliest in Gaza since the Israeli occupation of Gaza in 1967. News agencies reported that it was the single deadliest attack since the Israeli occupation of Gaza in 1967. The strikes came less than a week after a six month ceasefire with Hamas expired. Although Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, it has kept tight control over access in and out of the area. Palestinians were already facing a desperate situation from lack of food, medicine, fuel and electricity. Now they are too scared to leave their homes.
By 13 January the Palestinian Authority reported that at least 971 Palestinians have been killed of whom nearly 400 were women and children. Hundreds more civilians have been injured and homes and infrastructure destroyed, worsening the already dire plight of Gaza's 1.5 million people.
CWS has been supporting the Middle East Council of Churches Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees (DSPR) programmes, including health and vocational training in Gaza. "The situation in Gaza is absolutely disastrous," reports Bernard Sabella, Director of the DSPR. "The bombardments are inflicting civilian casualties and Gaza is in the most deplorable humanitarian situation as the Israeli air strikes have devastated infrastructure." CWS has launched an appeal to assist the DSPR health programme and ACT International relief efforts as they struggle to cope with emergency cases at clinics and hospitals.
"The 2000 beds in all the Gaza Strip hospitals are not able to cope with the casualties," adds Mr Sabella. The DSPR health clinics are being called into service as triage bases, treating the more
serious injuries until people can be transferred to hospitals. The number of injured civilians continues to rise.
- Gaza is a 41 km long, 6-12 km wide strip of land bordering Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean sea.
- Its total land area is 360 sq km, making it slightly larger than Wellington city (290 sq km) and smaller than the urban area of Christchurch (452 sq km).
- The population density is 4,167 people/sq km. This is the highest in the world. New Zealand's population density is 15 people/sq km. In Auckland population density is 1,209 people/sq km, in Wellington it is 621 people/sq km and in Christchurch 259 people/sq km.
- Gaza has a population of 1.5 million people, half of whom are under 14 years.
- 80% of Gazan households live below the poverty line and are dependent on food aid from international agencies to survive.
- The people of Gaza have been entirely fenced in since 1996.
- Israel occupied the Gaza Strip at the end of the 1967 war. In September 2005, the Israeli army pulled out of Gaza but maintained tight control over its borders (air, land and sea). In June 2007, Israel imposed a siege, tightly controlling all supplies into the area including food, fuel, electricity and medical supplies and the movement of people across its borders. Palestinians have been struggling at a subsistence level.
The Israel Palestine conflict
The latest crisis in Gaza is part of an ongoing conflict in the Middle East since the creation of Israel in 1948. The conflict is a complex issue with many different factors and interpretations. CWS has produced backgrounders on the issue for CAII (Churches' Agency for International Issues) that examine the competing claims to the land, Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, the need for Israeli security and the fate of over four million Palestinian refugees. Please visit our topics section and see: Palestine