Islamic Relief welcomes the ceasefire announced between Israel and Hamas that came into effect this morning.
Civilians have been worst affected and more than a quarter of the casualties of the past 11 days have been children – almost all of them in Gaza.
However, a ceasefire alone will not be enough to prevent violence escalating again in future. The world must now seize this moment to kickstart a process that truly addresses the root causes of the crisis.
Waseem Ahmad, the CEO of Islamic Relief Worldwide, says:
“A ceasefire is hugely welcome to stop the death and destruction of recent days. The immediate humanitarian priority now is to open crossings so that vital supplies of food, medicine and fuel can reach those who desperately need them – including tens of thousands of people whose homes are damaged and may be too hazardous to return to.
“However, there is a real threat that violence like this will continue to flare up unless meaningful action is taken to address the deep-rooted injustice and inequality at the heart of the situation. The international community must demand an end to the Israeli occupation, and also the blockade of Gaza that accompanies it. The occupation affects every aspect of Palestinians’ daily life. It denies their basic human rights, undermines their dignity and entrenches poverty. Through its relative silence and inaction, the international community has been complicit in this suffering for too long.
“Islamic Relief strongly condemns all violence against civilians. All Palestinians and Israelis, regardless of religion, have the right to live in safety and dignity, and to have their fundamental human rights upheld. We believe that this will not ultimately be possible until there is an end to the occupation and a lasting solution rooted in international law and justice.”
In the meantime, humanitarian aid is urgently needed. Thousands of lives and homes across Gaza have been destroyed by the bombing. Islamic Relief is calling for international aid to support rebuilding damaged infrastructure, strengthening health and electricity networks and providing psychosocial support. Islamic Relief teams are providing bedding, food vouchers and other essential aid to displaced families.
Muneeb Abu Ghazaleh, Islamic Relief’s Country Director based in Gaza, says:
“In recent days I have witnessed some of the worst violence I’ve ever seen. Whole families have been killed and thousands of buildings damaged or destroyed. A generation of children is likely to be psychologically scarred by the bombing and the terrifying fear that accompanies it.
“My son is 13 years old and this is the fourth war he has lived through. We now need world leaders’ commitment to ensure that this is the last. The new ceasefire must not be an excuse to ignore the underlying issues once again until the next explosion erupts. Building lasting peace requires respect for international humanitarian law and adherence to key UN resolutions.
“The Israeli blockade represents collective punishment of the people of Gaza and must be lifted immediately. It cuts people in Gaza off from other Palestinians and the wider world. It imposes tight restrictions on the movement of people and goods – preventing families from seeing each other, crippling essential services, and cutting off markets. It has turned Gaza’s once-vibrant economy into an area where 80 per cent of people now have to rely on aid and many children go to bed hungry at night.
“Gaza now has some of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world. Young people here are increasingly frustrated and see little hope for their future. A lasting solution needs to give them hope and ensure their fundamental human rights.”
In Gaza at least 230 people have been killed, including 65 children, and more than 1700 injured. Hundreds more Palestinians have been injured in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. At least 10 Israelis, including two children, have also been killed.
Initial assessments in Gaza show more than 1,335 homes have been destroyed or seriously damaged by bombing, while around 13,000 more have been partially damaged. At least 50 schools and 17 health facilities have been damaged.