20 year-old Raed Handal is studying Accounting and Business Administration at Bethlehem University. He has been volunteering with Caritas for about 18 months. On Saturday, he and five other volunteers gave up their day to pack blankets for the people of Gaza.
"We do many things in the West Bank to help our people, like renovating old people's homes, working with orphans in the community and sometimes carrying out research and assessments of needs in the camps.
"Here we are packing 1,000 blankets to be brought to the Palestinian Red Crescent in Ramallah for the people of Gaza, who are sleeping on the floors of schools without any warmth. They are sharing one blanket for a whole family. There are so many people left with nothing so all of this will help.
"It is also important for the people of Gaza to know that we in the West Bank stand in solidarity with them. I have a good friend there. He is a merchant but is too afraid to leave the basement of his shop. There is no life left untouched in Gaza."
Despite the ceasefire that was announced by Israel later that day, the needs in Gaza will be huge and we will only now be getting a real sense of the cost of this war. The death toll has risen steadily as bodies were pulled from the rubble. Still the hospitals overflow and medicine and equipment are severely lacking.
Caritas Jerusalem is endeavouring to provide ambulances to two of Gaza's main hospitals so they can bring relief to those that need it. They will also continue to support the newly-displaced people living in schools with basic medical services and blankets. Their own mobile clinic, as well as their main medical clinic and the five medical points throughout Gaza that survived the war, will remain providing primary health care and health awareness to the population.
Caritas clinic continues to provide help By Conor O'Loughlin International Humanitarian Communications Officer
The delivery of medical aid to people in Gaza is becoming increasingly difficult. Every day, another district or suburb becomes a 'no-go' zone because of the overnight fighting. People are either afraid to travel to the various clinics dotted around the strip, or their very staff are unable to make it in. And the infrastructure is suffering, too: on Friday a medical point run by Caritas Jerusalem was completely destroyed in an air raid attack by the Israeli army and the very next day another clinic run by the Middle Eastern Council of Churches was flattened by another.
Although it is extremely difficult to co-ordinate both safe passage with the Red Cross and Israeli army, the clinic has been moving around to various schools in Gaza City for the past number of days. Tens of thousands of Gazans have fled to live in schools since the attacks began on December 27, and many are suffering injuries from the bombings as well as the regular maladies that doctors might expect to treat in any given winter: flu, bronchitis and similar. But in the children, notable cases of malnutrition. It is too early to say whether or not malnutrition is on the rise, but with 80% of Gazans dependent on food aid and humanitarian access at extremely low levels, all signs point to a deepening humanitarian crisis.
The clinic gave general check-ups to 726 people in three schools over the last three days, providing much needed primary health services as well as taking a large burden of the Strip's vastly overloaded hospitals.
The clinic is now starting a new programme of co-ordination with those hospitals. The hospitals are working at and over full capacity. While the death toll nears 1000, the number of injured has gone far above 4000. New patients are arriving daily, overwhelming both the buildings and the personnel who are doing their utmost in sketchy circumstances.
The unfortunate outcome of this is that often after patients initial treatment the doctors or nurses simply don't have time to see them again. In order to help ease the burden, Caritas' mobile clinic is now sharing lists of injured with those hospitals and providing follow-up care to patients in the form of medication, counselling and simple but vital jobs like changing dressings.
But of course, not all the sick are in hospitals. Many know the difficulties of getting seen in the emergency wards, but many others, of course, are ill but not injured. Caritas has identified five doctors who happen to be living with their families in five different schools around Gaza. Removed from their practices, they have offered their services and are now providing permanent and free basic health services to the displaced in each school.
One doctor who works full time for Caritas is Dr Albaroud Jibriel, a 40-year old medic who trained in Algeria. On Tuesday, he and his whole family moved into the Caritas clinic because of attacks near his home.
"The windows in my house were all shattered." he said. "The shelling and bombing was very strong so we were unable to stay there any longer. The last night we did not sleep, we spent the night hiding under the staircase.”
Dr Jibriel is especially concerned about his wife who is five months pregnant with their first child.
“My wife and I are now sleeping in the Caritas Clinic on the 3rd floor with my three sisters.
But the work must go on. In the last week, Dr Jibriel has seen 1,075 patients and an enormous 265 yesterday alone. Because of the cold and people's living conditions, especially in the schools where so many are staying without sufficient blankets or warm clothing, he is treating a lot of serious throat and lung infections, chest pains, stomach viruses and diarrhoea. He is worried though, because stocks are low and his warehouse is empty.
Caritas' coordinator in Gaza is called Joumah Khadourah.
He also spoke by phone, where he was visiting other schools and assessing needs. He said, "There is a real shortage of food everywhere. A priority for Caritas is to put big flags over the five remaining medical points so that Israeli jets won't bomb us. We also desperately need blankets and mattresses. People here are sleeping three to a blanket - and it's very cold at night. The people ran straight to the schools without extra clothes or anything."
And the reality and the dangers of delivering aid through this crisis are all too apparent to those inside Gaza. On the phone, as we were speaking, he said, "Even right now as I speak to you I can hear airstrikes and shelling. There is no safe place left in Gaza."