As many residents in Gaza marked a somber start to a three-day holiday that caps the month of Ramadan, United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon once again renewed his calls for leaders in Israel and the Gaza Strip to agree to a humanitarian pause in fighting.
Three weeks of violence have left many parts of the Gaza Strip in ruins. More than 1,000 Gaza residents have been killed and more than 6,000 injured. Israel has lost 43 soldiers and three civilians.
The WorldPost spoke to Rene Celaya, country director for the West Bank and Gaza for the humanitarian agency CARE International, about what it's like to live in Gaza right now. The organization has been working in the area since 1948. Celaya, who is currently stationed in Jerusalem, urged the two sides to come to a "lasting ceasefire agreement" so that humanitarian aid can be delivered.
What does life in Gaza look like today?
Gaza looks as if there’s been a massive earthquake and you’re waiting for the next aftershock. You don’t know where to go. You don’t know what is safe. Should you stay inside? Should you go outside? What building is going to crumble next?
People are living day to day, taking care of their families as best as they can. They try to find a neighbor or a family member to move to. 160,000 people moved to U.N. settlement areas.
Which doesn’t always guarantee safety, as we’ve learned in the past days.
Sadly, that is very true. There’s really nowhere safe to go, and that is one of the key challenges. With the continued restrictions [Israel has ordered evacuations for many civilians in Gaza], even less space is available. You can go to a designated U.N. shelter, but recent days have shown that’s not 100 percent safe either. It’s hard to imagine having a family and trying to figure out what to do.
What’s currently the biggest humanitarian challenge in Gaza?
The biggest challenge is the ongoing fighting. It is not possible for many humanitarian workers to actually access communities and neighborhoods that need support. The biggest challenge would be to come to a durable and lasting ceasefire agreement, so that humanitarian aid can be provided and that communities can get back to their daily lives.
The one area that CARE is focusing on is the medical area. There have been so many injuries -- over 6,000 people are injured, over 1,000 have been killed. Our partner, the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, actually was able to go out to a couple of neighborhoods during the humanitarian ceasefire on Saturday and provided some services to about 128 people and another 143 on Sunday. They’ve mostly provided emergency medical first aid and medication through a mobile clinic.
While the medical area is definitely key, other sectors are in dire conditions as well: water and electricity, for example.
There have been many reports of a lack of water.
A lot of the infrastructure for water and electricity has been destroyed or suffered significant damage.
How was the situation before the fighting?
The situation was quite stark to begin with. The recent destruction has only made things worse. The water resources for Gaza are limited. Gaza did have some water processing plants, but some of those have been damaged.
How do people get water now?
That’s a day-to-day challenge now for most people in Gaza. Many people have lost their homes, so their access to water in particular depends on finding a public faucet or getting water from other neighbors that do still have water. In some parts, electricity has been reduced to two hours a day and some of the water resources depend on pumps. So the water they are currently accessing is not of good quality and certainly not enough in quantity.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
BEFORE YOU GO
08/08/2014 2:47 PM EDT
White House Concerned By Renewed Fighting
The White House on Friday urged Israel and the Palestinians to resume talks and do what they can to protect civilians after Egyptian-mediated negotiations failed to extend a ceasefire and rocket fire resumed.
"The United States is very concerned about today's developments in Gaza," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.
"We condemn the renewed rocket fire and we are concerned about the safety and security of civilians on both sides of that conflict," he said.
08/08/2014 1:42 PM EDT
Official: 5 Palestinians Killed In Gaza
Five Palestinians, including a 10-year-old boy, have been killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza since a ceasefire fell apart on Friday, a Palestinian medical official reported to Agence France Presse.
Meanwhile, the Israeli army said Palestinian militants fired 35 rockets into Israel on Friday, injuring a soldier and a civilian.
The father of a ten-year old Palestinian boy, who was killed in an Israeli air strike on the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood in northern Gaza City, mourns at the city's Al-Shifa hospital, on August 8, 2014. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)
08/08/2014 9:23 AM EDT
Palestinian Delegation Says Gaza Talks Will Continue
Palestinian factions will remain in Cairo and press on with Egyptian-mediated talks despite the end of the ceasefire in Gaza, the head of the delegation, Fatah official Azzam Ahmed, said on Friday.
"We are not for escalation. We are ready to continue through our Egyptian brothers in negotiating to reach a final agreement that would return the rights to their owners," Ahmed said. "I mean here lifting the blockade of Gaza."
Ahmed said Palestinian negotiators were due to meet Egyptian intelligence officials, who have been mediating the talks, later in the day. He said Palestinian factions were united in their decision not to extend the 72-hour truce that ended at 0500 GMT and had been clear about their basic demands to end the conflict.
08/08/2014 9:13 AM EDT
Egypt: Agreement Close In Gaza Talks
Egypt called on Friday for an immediate resumption of the ceasefire in Gaza and a return to the negotiating table, saying that only a few outstanding issues remained in negotiations it was mediating between Israel and the Palestinians.
"The foreign ministry calls on all sides to rise to their responsibilities ... and to return immediately to the ceasefire commitment and exploit the opportunity available to resume negotiations on the very limited sticking points that remain in the fastest possible time," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
08/08/2014 3:58 AM EDT
Israeli Airstrikes On Gaza Resume
BREAKING: Israel says it's resumed strikes on Gaza in response to rocket fire, after end of 3-day truce.— The Associated Press (@AP) August 8, 2014
08/08/2014 3:02 AM EDT
Cease-Fire Ends With New Rocket Attacks
A 72-hour cease-fire expired at 8 a.m. today, and not long after, Gaza militants began firing rockets at Israel, The Associated Press reported.
The Israeli military said at least 10 rockets had been fired at Israel since the truce ended. Prior to the attacks, a senior official for Hamas said the militant groups would not extend the cease-fire.
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08/06/2014 2:46 PM EDT
Official: Israel Agrees To Extend Ceasefire
Israel has conditionally agreed to extend a ceasefire that ended a month of fighting in Gaza beyond a Friday deadline, an Israeli official said on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The official did not say for how much longer Israel had agreed to extend the truce, only that: "Israel has expressed its readiness to extend the truce under its current terms," referring to the deal brokered by Egypt that took effect on Tuesday.
Hamas had no immediate comment.
08/06/2014 2:12 PM EDT
IDF: Rocket Sirens Were False Alarm
IDF confirms rocket sirens in southern Israel were false alarm http://t.co/QN677jtlXE— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) August 6, 2014
08/06/2014 1:18 PM EDT
Report: Rocket Sirens Sound At Gaza Border
ABC Foreign Editor Jon Williams reports that the IDF have confirmed the rocket sirens are sounding, but are checking to see if it is a false alarm.
08/05/2014 4:20 PM EDT
Israel Arrests Kidnapping Suspect
Reuters reports that Israel has arrested one of the suspects in the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank in June.
Hussam Kawasme, a 40-year-old resident of the West Bank city of Hebron, was arrested on July 11 in connection with the killing of Israelis Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrah, who went missing on June 12 and were discovered dead a couple of weeks later.
Their kidnapping sparked a cycle of violence that led to the month-long conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.
Kawasme's arrest was made public for the first time on Tuesday in a document from an Israeli court case over whether houses belonging to him and two other suspects - who remain at large - should be destroyed as a punitive measure.
The lawyers listed as representing Kawasme were not reachable for comment.
The court document said Kawasme had admitted to helping to organize the kidnapping - securing funding from the Hamas Islamist group in Gaza and purchasing weapons which he passed on to the two other suspects who carried out the attack.
Kawasme also helped to bury the bodies of the teenagers in a plot of land he had bought a few months earlier, it said.
Israel has named the other two suspects in the case as Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aysha.