Deaths on humanitarian convoy headed for Gaza deeply saddening
01 June 2010
Caritas says that a confrontation over a humanitarian convoy heading for Gaza that ended in the loss of life is tragic.
An ambulance donated to the Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City by Caritas Jerusalem.
Israeli forces boarded the passenger boat Mavi Marmara in international waters on 31 May. Ten people were killed and more than 30 people injured. The boat was part of a flotilla of six ships transporting 800 supporters and 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Gaza.
Caritas says that the crisis must be defused through dialogue. Talks must also seek to address the suffering caused by the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Lesley-Anne Knight said, “I'm deeply saddened that a convoy of humanitarian aid destined for the poor in Gaza has resulted in violence and loss of life. Dialogue should have been used initially to avoid any confrontation and that the response by the Israeli forces should have been proportionate.”
Caritas said Israel had a duty to live up to its obligations to protect unarmed civilians and humanitarian workers.
The humanitarian aid on the ships included much-needed medical equipment and construction material to the Gaza Strip, under siege since 2007. The Mavi Marmara was towed with other ships to the Israeli port of Ashdod, 40 km north from Gaza.
“We were looking forward to welcoming them. People had prepared events, conferences and visits to hospitals and centres for the disabled. This was our chance to show the world the effects of the blockade on 1.5 million people,” said Ameen Sabbagh, a Caritas staff member in Gaza.
Claudette Habesch, Caritas Jerusalem Secretary General, said, “The attack on the Free Gaza flottilla has cut a lifeline of hope and solidarity with all Gazans, including Caritas workers stranded on this narrow strip of land.”
Caritas Jerusalem has run a health centre giving general medical and psychosocial help to more than 2000 patients in Gaza since 2003. A Caritas mobile clinic is also reaching out the population without access to healthcare. In the aftermath of the conflict in Gaza in January 2009, Caritas has provided tents to the homeless, and food and hygiene kits to the population.
Caritas condemns all forms of violence in the Holy Land, and continues to work with all sides towards peace, justice and reconciliation.
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