The patriarchs and heads of churches in Jerusalem issued a statement Friday calling on Israel to allow food and medical supplies to enter the Gaza Strip, where “a grave humanitarian crisis has befallen all of us.”
In their joint statement, the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant church leaders also called for stemming the violence that has erupted since Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel last weekend, which took the lives of 1,300 Israelis. About 1,900 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict over the past week.
“We call upon all parties to de-escalate this war in order to save innocent lives while still serving the cause of justice,” the joint statement from Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant church leaders read.
“Our beloved Holy Land has changed dramatically over the past week,” they said. “We are witnessing a new cycle of violence with an unjustifiable attack against all civilians. Tensions continue to rise and more innocent and vulnerable people are paying the ultimate price as the dramatic level of death and destruction in Gaza clearly show.”
The statement followed Israel’s call for the 1.1 million people living in northern Gaza to flee toward the southern part of the territory. The 141-square-mile Gaza Strip, home to more than 2 million people, has been enclosed in an Israeli land, sea, and air blockade since 2007 and has a closed border with Egypt.
Long-standing Israeli sanctions against Gaza intensified this week after Israel reportedly cut off electricity and access to outside food, water, and fuel, and threatened to bomb any humanitarian aid trucks that try to enter through Egypt.
The joint statement from Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant church leaders warned that the evacuation order “will only deepen an already disastrous humanitarian catastrophe,” noting that about 423,000 people “have already been displaced because of the destruction of their homes” and “Gaza’s entire population is being deprived of electricity, water, fuel supplies, food, and medicine.”
“Many civilians in Gaza have said to us that there are no realistic ways in which they can evacuate to safety in any direction,” the statement read. “We call upon the State of Israel, with the support of the international community, to allow humanitarian supplies to enter Gaza so that the thousands of innocent civilians may receive medical treatment and basic supplies.”
The Christian leaders also urged the people of their congregations to observe a day of prayer and fasting on Tuesday, Oct. 17, “in support of all those who have suffered in this war and of families reeling from the violence.”
“There is yet time to stop the hatred,” the patriarchs and heads of churches in Jerusalem said.
By Tyler Arnold | catholicnewsagency