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Israeli Attacks Against Gaza Intensify, Civilian Casualties Grow

Photo-credit,-IsraelMFA-via-Photopin,-CC

By Dan Wooding,  ASSIST News Service, July 18, 2014

Gaza City, Gaza – As the ground offensive against Hamas in Gaza intensifies, Israel warned on Friday that it could “significantly widen” a Gaza land offensive but was cautioned by its main ally, the United States, about the risks of further escalation as Palestinian civilian deaths mounted.

Palestinians carry the body of 3-year-old Mohammed Mnassrah during his funeral in the Maghazi refugee camp, central Gaza Strip, Thursday, July 10, 2014

“Palestinian officials said 58 Palestinians, at least 15 of them under the age of 18, have been killed since Israel sent ground forces on Thursday into the densely-populated enclave of 1.8 million Palestinians,” said Reuters.

“The Israeli military said it killed 17 Palestinian gunmen while another 13 surrendered and were taken for questioning after the infantry and tank assault began in the Islamist Hamas-dominated territory.

“One Israeli soldier was killed in an apparent friendly fire incident, the military said, and several other troops were wounded in the ground operations. It said some 150 targets, including 21 concealed rocket launchers and four tunnels, have been attacked.”

In the meantime, the UN has apologized to Israel after some 20 rockets were found Wednesday in a school in Gaza operated by the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency — the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees — confirmed Thursday.

It has condemned a “flagrant violation of the inviolability of its promise,’ and promises an investigation, while Israel has called on the UN to “act strongly.”

“UNRWA strongly condemns the group or groups responsible for placing the weapons in one of its installations. This is a flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law,” the statement read.

According to Raphael Ahren, writing in the Times of Israel, the weapons were found in “the course of the regular inspection of its premises,” UNRWA said in a statement, adding that the school was vacant.

UNRWA went on to say, this incident was “the first of its kind in Gaza,” adding that it “endangered civilians including staff and put at risk UNRWA’s vital mission to assist and protect Palestinian refugees in Gaza.”

A Hamas fighter prepares to fire
more rockets into Israel

UNRWA informed all officials immediately after discovering the rockets, and “successfully took all necessary measures for the removal of the objects in order to preserve the safety and security of the school.”

Officials from the agency, which has a reputation in Jerusalem of being exceedingly critical of Israeli policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians, have been summoned to the Foreign Ministry. They have apologized to Israel for the incident, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said.
UNRWA says it has launched a “comprehensive investigation” into the incidence, the statement said.

Ahren wrote, “The discovery would seem to confirm Israel’s oft-repeated claim that Hamas and other Gazan terror groups use civilian infrastructure to hide weapons.”

In a separate story, Judith Sudilovsky of Catholic News Service, says that members of the tiny Christian community in the Gaza Strip have been keeping watch out for and helping each other to keep safe from Israeli airstrikes throughout the region, but nowhere in the territory is really safe, said a priest at the territories only Catholic parish.

She said that Father Jorge Hernandez, an Argentine member of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, said that one night, after a bomb siren sounded, he helped three Sisters of Charity evacuate 20 handicapped children from their home to his.

Dan Wooding interviews Brother Andrew before traveling into Gaza with him

“We had to carry all of the children in our arms,” Father Hernandez said in a telephone interview. “There is no space in my house, so we laid down blankets on the floor and put the children there.

“It was very intense and there was a lot of fear, but the bomb fell farther away,” he said.

Israel, she went on to say, has said that its airstrikes in populated areas are targeted to the homes of militants, and they give phone warnings to the civilians in the house to leave the premises before attacking. The airstrikes began July 8.

While some people leave after the phone calls, there have been reports of others climbing on the roofs of houses to act as human shields.

Father Hernandez said that three Gaza neighborhoods had been warned to evacuate, but there are no safety zones large enough for all of the residents. Instead, the people seek refuge in school buildings run by the government and the U.N.

“Everything is so close there is no place for them to go,” he said. “They are 100,000 people who have been told to leave, and then there is the problem of food and water for them. It is an enormous problem.”

Sudilovsky added, “The people of Gaza suspected that an attack was imminent a few days before Israel launched Operation Protective Edge, so the people prepared themselves by stocking supplies. Some neighborhood stores remain open, Father Hernandez said, and Israel has said it continues to allow food and humanitarian supplies to be taken into Gaza by truck.

“Holy Family Parish was about to begin its summer camp and Father Hernandez was celebrating the opening Mass when the bombing began, he said, adding that the children were sent home.

“The Sisters of the Institute of the Incarnate Word have been calling members of the parish to check up on them on a daily basis, he said, and he has remained in touch with his parishioners by phone or by Skype. He is also in touch with the Greek Orthodox priest and Baptist pastor, and they remain united in helping the Christian community, he said. About 1,300 Christian Palestinians live in Gaza amid 1.8 million Muslims.”

Dr. Issa Tarazi, executive director of Near East Council of Churches Department of Services to Palestinian Refugees in Gaza, told Catholic News Service by telephone that Gaza’s streets have very little traffic, and only emergency and hospital staff workers are working.

“Everyone in Gaza considers themselves a target: people are scared about what is going on,” he said. “We pray for peace and justice. We are against the killing of all civilians. It is a vicious circle, one starts shooting, and the other replies and the losers are the civilians.”

The Gaza Baptist Church, is one of only three Christian churches in the Gaza Strip, and the only one that is Evangelical.

The Gaza Baptist Church and its congregation of about 200 have been adversely affected by ongoing violence and chaos related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Several church members have become casualties of violence between warring Palestinian factions, and after the murder of a Church leader by unidentified militants in 2007, a number of others were advised by the Gaza authorities to leave Gaza for their own safety. As a result of this situation and of ongoing Israeli travel restrictions, the Church’s leadership, including its pastor, still lives in exile, and is only occasionally able to return.

On or before February 2007, the Church’s public library was subjected to arson attacks on three separate occasions, and I was able to visit the re-built library on one occasion with Brother Andrew. During an Israeli air raid in December 2008, the building was damaged by a nearby bomb blast

The Gaza Strip is a small area and the Israeli attacks are wide-ranging, said Father Hernandez, so there is no safe zone. Some Christian homes have had slight damage as a result of bombings, but as a whole, most of the community has remained safe, and there have been no injuries, he said.

Israelis in southern Israel have been under constant attack from missiles lobbed at them from within Gaza by Hamas militants, and residents of southern Israel have spent long hours in bomb shelters.

On July 11, Israel said more than 550 rockets had been fired into Israel reaching into Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and as far north as the coastal city of Zichron Yaakov. Though there has been significant property damage, only one civilian and two soldiers have been reported injured. Many of the rockets have been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system.

A Note from Dan Wooding: I have written a novel called Red Dagger (Tanswell Books), about terror, betrayal, and redemption. Much of it is set in Gaza, but also features a Northern Ireland terrorist and an American journalist. I have been to Gaza on three occasions, once with Brother Andrew, the founder of Open Doors. To order a copy, go to www.lulu.com/shop/dan-wooding/red-dagger/paperback/product-11050174.html;jsessionid=9B886E8DA3745ECD44CF6A7170AA307C


See all ASSIST News articles at www.assistnews.net


Dan Wooding, 73, is an award-winning journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for 50 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS) and he hosts the weekly “Front Page Radio” show on the KWVE Radio Network in Southern California and which is also carried throughout the United States and around the world. He is the author of some 45 books, the latest of which is a novel about the life of Jesus through the eyes of his mother called “Mary: My Story from Bethlehem to Calvary”. (Click to order)

** You may republish this story with proper attribution.

Photo credit, title: IsraelMFA via Photopin, CC

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