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NGOs in Gaza Call Attention to Humanitarian Crisis and War Crimes

On July 30th, the Palestinian NGOs Network “PNGO” organized a demonstration in solidarity with the Lebanese people in front of the United Nations head quarter in Gaza city. Similarly, over twenty international humanitarian aid agencies and non-governmental organisations have joined forces to issue a joint appeal for action on July 27th in response to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Thousands of children, women, youth and NGO representatives participated in the demonstration condemning loudly the Israeli massacres committed in Lebanon and raising their solidarity with the people of Lebanon.

The demonstrators called for immediate international investigation into the Israeli war Crimes in both the occupied Palestinian Territories and Lebanon.

Ma’an news printed the press release, which is as follows:

International non governmental organizations providing humanitarian assistance to the civilian population in Gaza warn that more and more people are in need of help as hostilities between Israel and Palestinian factions continue unabated. Humanitarian access to the hardest hit communities remains difficult, and access of humanitarian staff in and out of Gaza is restricted to expatriate staff only. While global attention quite rightly focuses on the Lebanese civilians trying to escape the fighting in Lebanon, the 1.4 million people of Gaza are trapped, unable to flee from the current hostilities.

The undersigned international non-governmental organizations call upon the international community to work with all parties to:

-Adopt an immediate cease fire and seek a peaceful resolution of the crisis,
-Ensure full access to humanitarian assistance for Palestinian civilians living in Gaza to realize their critical needs, and
-Protect the lives of civilians in Gaza, in particular children, and the essential infrastructure that supports them in accordance with international humanitarian law.

International NGOs in Gaza are overwhelmed by calls for assistance as families struggle to cope without incomes, and without the means to ensure their families are safe and protected from the violence. For example, on Friday July 21, 2006, Fuad’s family fled in the middle of the night from the village of Shokeh in the southern part of Gaza- just like tens of other families in this village – when a military incursion supported by tanks began firing in the direction of their tin shacks. Eleven-year-old Fuad woke up terrified. He says: “We had to leave the house immediately. I don’t know how long it took us to walk to Rafah. Although we are living in a tent now, it is better for us because maybe it is safer for us here.”

As NGOs scale up their humanitarian response, they have assessed the impact of the recent hostilities on their ongoing programs. In Beit Lahia 27 greenhouses recently rehabilitated by CARE were completely destroyed and another 23 were damaged in the last month. Approximately 100 square meters of the Beit Hanoun Municipality playground, rehabilitated by Save the Children, was severely damaged and 30 meters of the playground’s wall were knocked down. World Vision’s partner agency, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, reports extensive damage to their Beit Hanoun office and loss of equipment as a result of a recent incursion.

Other NGOs report recent damage to project sites, delays in implementation due to lack of access, and the freezing of donor funds for certain activities.

The last six months has seen a steady deterioration in the humanitarian situation in Gaza. The households hit hardest are those who rely on salaries from the Palestinian Authority. The public institutions that deliver basic services such as health, water, sanitation, and waste disposal are severely compromised as a result of the fiscal crisis. Rising costs due to fuel and commodity shortages, problems in bringing in supplies and difficulties in reaching the most heavily impacted areas, severely hampers the ability of NGOs and public institutions to monitor, assess and provide assistance to the people who need it most.

Action Against Hunger (ACH)
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
Campaign for the Children of Palestine
CARE International
Community Habitat Finance International (CHF)
Cooperazione Internazionale (COOPI)
Italian Consortium of Solidarity (ICS)
Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC)
Gruppo di Volontariato Civile (GVC)
Lutheran World Federation
Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP UK)
Medecin du Monde France
Medecin du Monde Greece
Medecin du Monde Spain
Medico International
Mennonite Central Committee
Merlin – Medical Emergency Relief International
Oxfam International
Palestine Group of Sweden
Relief International
Ricerca e Cooperazione
Save the Children Alliance
Solidarite Socialiste, Belgium
Swedish Cooperative Centre
Swedish Organization for Individual Relief (SOIR)
United Nation Association International Service (UNAIS)
World Vision Jerusalem

For More Information, Please Contact:
Jennifer Moorehead, Save the Children UK (jennifer_scpal@palnet.com)
George Sahhar, CARE ( sahhar@carewbg.org)
Allyn Dhynes, World Vision (allyn_dhynes@wvi.org)