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The fate of millions of people in this war-ravaged corner of East Africa depends on an uncertain peace agreement signed this week. A former British government minister, just back from visiting refugee projects in the area, assesses the country’s prospects
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The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem has likened Gaza to a “factory of desperate people, designed to easily turn into extremists ready for anything".
On Monday a seven-hour "humanitarian window" announced by Israel was being observed in parts of Gaza.
Patriarch Fouad Twal, a Palestinian born in Jordan, said a temporary truce such as Friday’s, would not help if conditions in Gaza remained “a desperate land under siege, where only fear and frustration that feed hatred can grow.”
He said that only ending Israel’s land, air and sea blockade of the Strip, which is aimed at preventing the flow of arms into the territory, would bring peace.
"Even the tunnels built in Gaza are a product of the embargo in their own way,” he told the Vatican’s Agenzia Fides. “If you put an end to this siege, if you open up the streets and allow freedom of movement of people and goods, if you allow free fishing in the sea in front of Gaza, then everything will be able to move on the surface and no one will need to dig underground tunnels to pass".
Meanwhile Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, the President of Caritas Internationalis, on Friday called for an end to the blockade and a permanent truce, urging Israeli and Hamas leaders to “pick up a pair of binoculars” and see that their victims were innocent people.
The body of the first Christian victim of the conflict, 65-year old Palestinian Christian Jalila Faraj Ayyad, was discovered last week among the torn remnants of her Bible, China’s State-run Xinhua News agency reported on Wednesday.
Yesterday UN Chief Ban Ki-moon condemned an Israeli attack on a UN school in Gaza on Sunday that killed 10 people, including at least four children, as a “gross violation of international humanitarian law.”
Some 64 Israeli troops and 1,800 Palestinians – among them hundreds of terrorists – have died in the 28-day conflict.
Last week the Archbishops of Westminster and Canterbury made pleas for peace in the Holy Land, calling for a truce in Gaza and urging Israelis and Palestinians to address the issues underlying the conflict.
Above: Palestinians walk among destroyed houses in Gaza Strip. Photo: CNS photo/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa , Reuters