Gaza Strip violence took a five-day intermission starting Aug. 13, 2014, providing relief to residents in desperate need of humanitarian care. The temporary cease-fire allowed 244 Israeli supply trucks to deliver food, medicine, water, fuel, clothing, medical, agricultural, cleaning and other humanitarian supplies to an area decimated by the ravages of war. Despite Hamas’ frequent attacks on Israel, the Israelis worked diligently to maintain the security of the Kerem Shalom crossing and keep essential supplies flowing to Gaza citizens. Angy Shavit, a Jewish supporter of the Catholic humanitarian aid group Caritas Jerusalem, told USA Today that in spite of the necessity for Israel to use force to stop the missile attacks, “we [don’t] believe the civilians in Gaza are the enemy.”
The relentless attacks brought about this latest crisis when Hamas rockets hit inside Kerem Shalom Crossing on Aug. 10. This forced a temporary shutdown to assess the damage and stranded 249 supply trucks slated to deliver basic supplies to the Palestinian civilians who live in the Gaza Strip. The resulting shortages of food, bottled water, sanitation and medical care left the beleaguered Gaza residents desperately crying for relief. The Rev. Raed Abusahliah, director of Caritas Jerusalem, reports that Gaza’s main power station and many of their bakeries and factories have fallen victim to the ongoing violence, creating a grim reality and appalling living conditions in Gaza.
While hoping to bring some humanitarian relief to the Gaza Strip residents during the cease-fire, the Rev. Abusahliah did not expect the degree of support Caritas’ aid campaign received from Israeli Jews who offered a wide variety of goods and supplies. Approximately half of Caritas’ donors in this relief effort were Israeli Jews, he explains. Shavit reports Jewish donations of water, baby supplies, flour, sugar and other staple items–even blood donations. She asserts that, politics aside, when there is a baby in need, you donate to meet that need.
In addition to critical supplies, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has set up field hospitals near Erez Crossing to treat Palestinians injured in the attacks, according to IDF Chief of General Staff, Benny Gantz. Women, children and the elderly who were injured in the attacks receive priority treatment, adds Major Yoav Mordechai, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). Patients who require a higher level of care than a field hospital can provide can relocate to an Israeli hospital. Arutz Sheva, the Israeli national news organization, reports that the IDF has resisted governmental pressures to shut off the flow of electricity to Gaza because in spite of their political differences with Hamas, they maintain a concern for the well-being of the civilian population. By acting compassionately and humanely, they make it difficult for Hamas to make a credible case of blame toward Israel of no food, water or power in Gaza.
Rocket fire from the Gaza Strip broke the cease-fire on Aug. 18, ending the reprieve from the constant violence that area residents live with on a daily basis. Nonetheless, before hostilities resumed, Israeli trucks delivered 4,654 tons of supplies to the Gaza area. The Israeli Ministry of Defense reports that the relief efforts amounted to 2,905 tons of food, 23 tons of medicine and medical supplies, 26 tons of agricultural supplies and an additional 405 tons of other humanitarian aid. Furthermore, they imported 5.83 million liters of diesel to the power station and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). During the cease-fire, COGAT restored critical infrastructure operations with 51 electrical repairs, 18 water supply repairs, six sewage repairs and seven communication repairs bringing much needed humanitarian relief to the Gaza Strip.
By Tamara Christine Van Hooser
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Humanitarian Aid to Gaza
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Daily Report