Today (27 December
2008) aid agencies and human rights groups working in Gaza
called on Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups to
pull back from the brink of an all-out military confrontation.
The aid agencies warn
that a full-scale military incursion would have disastrous
consequences for civilians already living in acute conditions as
a result of the 18 month Israeli blockade on Gaza and seriously
worsen the security situation for Israeli residents who have
come under attacks from rocket-fire.
"Gaza has already been paralysed by the Israeli blockade.
A military attack on Gaza could completely destroy essential
infrastructure for sewage treatment, water provision and
electricity for hospitals and homes, with devastating impact on
civilians", said Tsafrir
Cohen, Representative of medico international
in Israel & Palestine.
The aid agencies and
human rights groups - Oxfam, CARE International, World Vision,
CAFOD, Medico International and Diakonia - offer a bleak
assessment of the consequences of military action and warn of a
possible humanitarian catastrophe in its wake.
"The ability of people
in Gaza to provide for themselves has been crippled. Our
governments need to help all parties to the conflict find a
genuine and lasting solution. A military offensive will hit
ordinary people ? the very people we need as partners in
building a better future for the region. Military action would
alienate Gaza further and the consequences of this would be
disastrous", said Jeremy
Hobbs, Director of Oxfam International.
The aid agencies
condemned all attacks on civilians and called on the
international community to speak out against the
disproportionate use of force by any side.The cessation of violence was not perfect but it brought
some calm to ordinary people on both sides. There is no military
solution to the situation and the upsurge in violence destroys
hopes for peace, refuelling the cycle of violence. There is
simply no alternative to negotiations to address the root causes
of the conflict", said
Martha Myers, Country Director for West Bank and Gaza for
Aid agencies are
deeply critical of the Israeli government's
continued refusal to bring an end to the blockade of Gaza and of
its increased restrictions on humanitarian access witnessed
since early November, and regret the Egyptian government's
inability to negotiate an opening to the Rafah crossing.
"The blockade of Gaza is
illegal and constitutes collective punishment of ordinary men,
women and children. Humanitarian access cannot be used as a
political tool. We condemn unequivocally the rocket attacks into
Israel and warn in the strongest terms against any massive
military response on the part of Israel", said
Christoffer Sjöholm, Regional Manager for Diakonia.