Caritas Europa reiterates appeal for Gaza ceasefire

Eight months into the war in Gaza, Caritas Europa issues a statement in which it reiterates its call for an immediate ceasefire, the release of all hostages and those arbitrarily detained, and delivery of humanitarian aid into the Strip.

Jun 13, 2024

A Palestinian man carries water past destroyed buildings in Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip (AFP or licensors)

By Linda Bordoni
“We believe it is important to reiterate such a call, it's not the first one that we do, and we are not the only ones to release statements on Gaza these days,” said Caritas Europa’s International Cooperation and Humanitarian Director, Jean-Yves Terlinden.

With over 37,000 people killed by Israeli strikes in Gaza since 7 October and countless appeals for mediation and unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid, Terlinden told Vatican Radio he believes there are two reasons for the just released Caritas Europa statement “No safe place in Gaza”.

“The first one is the situation on the ground: The number of victims is still increasing,” he said noting that while initially the dead were victims of shelling, more and more people in the enclave are now at risk due to “lack of access to nutrition, to food, lack of access to health. And this is the first reason for us to reiterate our call for a ceasefire.”

UN Security Council resolution
Terlinden explained the second reason for stating at this moment in time relates to the fact that a resolution on a ceasefire has just been voted at the United Nations Security Council.

“We believe that this is also an important momentum to reiterate the call and to promote this from member states of the European Union,” he said.

Concern for situation in West Bank
Caritas Europe also expresses grave concern for the situation in the West Bank where more than 500 Palestinians and 12 Israelis have been killed since October, with Palestinian families facing home demolitions, movement restrictions and loss of livelihoods.

Terlinden expressed his belief that it is “important to keep an eye on what is going on in the West Bank” and said, “It's not only about Gaza these days.”

“The number of demolitions, and confiscation, that the Palestinian population is facing in the West Bank is very concerning. It reminds us of what happened about six ago when the same level of destruction and demolitions were observed,” he said, recalling the deadly violence and illegal settlement expansion in 2018 that killed at least 289 Palestinians and wounded thousands of others.

Pope’s appeals for peace
Pope Francis has raised his voice on numerous occasions to ask for a ceasefire, the release of hostages, and the delivery of aid. Just last week he held a ceremony in the Vatican Gardens in which he invoked peace.

The Caritas Europa International Cooperation and Humanitarian Director said the Pope’s voice is particularly important in this scenario adding that Caritas appreciates his peace-building and insistence on the need for peace in Gaza.

“I think collectively we all need to raise our concerns about the situation,” he said, pointing out that for Caritas, the humanitarian branch of the Catholic Church, what is particularly important is  “to insist on the humanitarian consequences of this crisis and insist on the respect of International Humanitarian Law. “

“I think our voice is quite complementary to the one of Pope Francis!”

Contrary to my knowledge, Terlinden said that as well as the Caritas office in Jerusalem, there is also a small contingent of Caritas staff in Gaza, struggling to provide aid.

“Before the war started, there were 100 colleagues from Caritas present in Gaza; with the current situation, half of them, I think, are not working anymore, but still 50 of our colleagues are working in Gaza in very difficult circumstances,” he said.

Thus, Caritas has some mobile clinics, the possibility to deliver a limited humanitarian response to the population.

“It's very limited, it's very fragile, but we are keeping this project for the moment,” he affirmed.

Resumption and increase of funding to UNRWA
Referring to another focus of the Caritas Europa statement regarding the resumption and increase of funding to UNRWA – the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees in the Near East – and is the main humanitarian organization operating inside the Gaza Strip,  Terlinden said it is important to make sure funding to the agency is resumed and intensified.

“You know that UNRWA is really very important in this crisis, they are the first delivery partner in the Gaza Strip,” he said recalling the fact that in the past months, they faced an investigation for an alleged involvement in the Hamas attack on Israel that led to the freezing of funds by many donors.

“UNRWA is really very important in this crisis, they are the first delivery partner in the Gaza Strip.”

However, he continued, “They reacted correctly to this,” and some European member states have resumed their funding after a period of suspension.

UNRWA in fact, has established and updated policies, mechanisms, and procedures to ensure compliance with the principle of neutrality, including providing information and training for staff to prevent violations, and ensure prompt and appropriate responses to allegations or indications of violations including reporting and investigative systems and routines, and enforcing disciplinary sanctions on staff found to have violated the principles of neutrality.

But some member states are missing, Terlinden observed, “So we are advocating for them to resume their funding and ideally also to increase their funding because obviously, the needs are much higher now than six or eight months ago.”

“The needs are much higher now than six or eight months ago.”

Caritas Europa is a Catholic network working with people of all faiths to end poverty and to promote the dignity of all people. We are part of the global Caritas Internationalis network that has over 160 members around the world.--Vatican News

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