Ceasefire in Gaza is only the first step in ending suffering across occupied Palestine

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) welcomes the ceasefire which has brought an end to Israel’s current military assault on Gaza. But this is just an essential first step in ending the suffering for Palestinians across the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt).

At 02.00 local time, when the ceasefire came into effect, people across Gaza and the West Bank celebrated the news. It comes after 11 days of constant Israeli bombardment which has killed 243 Palestinians, including 55 children, and injured 1,900 more.

Many of those injured will require extensive surgery and rehabilitation to recover, and the mental health impact of the bombardment on Gaza’s two million people is immense, particularly for a population already traumatised by repeated military offensives and 14 years of illegal closure and blockade.

The violence has also caused 91,000 people across Gaza to flee their homes, including 66,000 seeking protection in 58 UNRWA schools. They are living in overcrowded conditions amidst the COVID-19 pandemic which has already decimated Gaza’s healthcare system. A renewed surge in the virus is likely to be seen for weeks to come.

Humanitarian needs remain desperately high, and crossings into Gaza must be immediately opened to allow for the entry of humanitarian relief and emergency medical teams, as part of a comprehensive lifting of the blockade.

“This recent Israeli assault has been one of the most difficult times we have been through in Gaza. We are thankful it has come to an end for now, but it will a take long time to rebuild and recover from such a terrible shock,” said Fikr Shalltoot, MAP’s Director of Programmes in Gaza.

“Our team in Gaza have been working tirelessly over the past 11 days to respond to the emergency. We will now take a breath and spend time with our families, before the work to rebuild Gaza begins again,” said Fikr. 

As was the case in previous military offensives in 2008/9, 2012 and 2014, Israel’s bombardment of Gaza was once again characterised by widespread damage and destruction to civilian homes and healthcare facilities. More than 1,450 residential units were destroyed and more than 13,000 damaged. 22 hospitals and clinics were damaged, including COVID-19 testing and vaccination centres. Two doctors and a psychologist were also killed.

Recurrent attacks on Palestinian healthcare are fuelled by chronic impunity, which the international community must take immediate steps to address, including by supporting accountability mechanisms at the UN Human Rights Council and the investigation of the International Criminal Court.

The international community must also take immediate steps to address the widespread and systematic human rights abuses and discriminatory policies against Palestinians that lie at the root cause of recent hostilities, including the blockade; attempts to forcibly expel Palestinians from their homes in occupied East Jerusalem; the continued expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank; and excessive use of force against Palestinians exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly wherever they live.

With a continuing lack of essential healthcare resources and materials in Gaza and beyond, MAP is continuing to provide vital support to health services in Gaza and across the oPt as part of our emergency response. Please support these efforts by donating today.

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Photo: Destruction in Gaza following an Israeli strike in May 2021. (Credit: Mohammad Lubbad).

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