Civilians suffer in Gaza
A former Timaru resident who visited Gaza on the border of Egypt and Israel just before the latest bombings is sad that the people she met have had their hopes for the future dashed again.
The latest round of attacks by Israel is in reponse to the abduction and killings of three Jewish teenagers, allegedly by the military arm Hamas last month.
Christian World Service (CWS) international programmes co-ordinator Trish Murray visited in May and said there was a sense of optimism as shops, accommodation and businesses had been rebuilt since the 2008 bombings there.
"People were feeling hopeful ... and positive about employment and education."
CWS is a development, justice and aid agency arm of the New Zealand churches. It partners the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees (DSPR) in running three mother and baby health clinics in Gaza, providing vital health services. One of the clinics had to be relocated and re-equipped after it was bombed in 2009.
When Murray visited in 2009 the people were still traumatised from the bombings. She had communication with some of them last week and they were very worried about what was happening.
On one of her visits the programmes co-ordinator met a 16-year-old whose father had been killed, and as oldest male in the family it was his responsibility to gather his father's body parts for burial.
"He was stunned and was just existing, fortunately he had people around him to support him."
When rockets start it was hard to know when they would finish, according to Murray.
"The suffering of civilians, especially children and older people, is of great concern ... Over half of the population are under 18 years old," she said.
Gaza is a poor area which is under blockade.
"The people's lives are limited - fishermen can only fish up to 3 nautical miles (from land)."
She said it was easy to blame Hamas for Gaza's problems but she pointed out Israel had the advantage of more military power.
"People need peace so they can move on."
- The Timaru Herald
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