TALE of two CONFLICTS

Categories: Nation/World

Official: ‘Everyone in Gaza considers themselves a target’

By Judith Sudilovsky
Catholic News Service

The situation in hospitals in the Gaza Strip is dire, and Palestinians are saying that medical supplies will soon run out, said a cardiologist who serves with the Near East Council of Churches in Gaza.

Dr. Issa Tarazi, executive director of Near East Council of Churches Department of Services to Palestinian Refugees in Gaza, told Catholic News Service by telephone that Gaza’s streets have very little traffic, and only emergency and hospital staff workers are working.

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People carry the body of a Palestinian boy whom hospital officials said was killed in an Israeli airstrike on his family’s house in Gaza City July 9. The Israeli army intensified its offensive on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, striking Hamas sites in a military operation it says is aimed at quelling rocket fire against Israel. CNS photo/Ashraf Amrah, Reuters

“Everyone in Gaza considers themselves a target,” he told CNS July 14. “People are scared about what is going on.”

“There are many displaced people,” Tarazi added. During the interview, the sound of planes could be heard over the phone as Israel’s Operation Protective Shield headed into its second week.

Thousands of people have fled and are seeking refuge largely in U.N. schools and facilities. Israel has said it is keeping humanitarian corridors into Gaza open.

The Israeli Defense Forces launched an offensive into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip in early July in response to Hamas militants lobbing missiles into Israel.

By July 14, more than 170 people — about half civilians — had been killed in Gaza, and hundreds more were injured. In Israel, where the Iron Dome defense system had warded off dozens of Hamas missiles, there was some property damage and a handful of injuries. The situation has continued to deteriorate following the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli youths in the West Bank and the apparent revenge killing of a Palestinian teen.

Leadership needed

Father David Neuhaus, patriarchal vicar for the Hebrew-speaking Catholics in the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, told CNS: “What we are seeing is a cycle of violence signaling that especially the Israeli and Palestinian leadership are not willing to live together, despite the fact that when you ask most people here they are willing to do so.

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The parents of Naftali Frankel attend his funeral service in Israel, July 1. Ayalon was one of three Israeli teens found dead in a West Bank field after they disappeared trying to hitchhike home. Israel blamed the Islamist movement Hamas. CNS photo/Jim Hollander, EPA

Despite the current situation, he said, people must have faith in God’s plan, believing that God will “make emerge a leadership who will speak a different language and not constantly refer to the ‘enemy’ on the other side but to ‘brothers and sisters’ on the other side.”

“There is enough space and resources here to build a society that can give a better future for the children. It will happen, it is only a question of when and how long we will have to wait,” said Father Neuhaus.


In Iraq: Situation perhaps ‘darkest and most difficult period’

By Dale Gavlak
Catholic News Service

The patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad called the current situation in his country “perhaps the darkest and most difficult period in [the church’s] recent history.”

In a telephone interview with Catholic News Service July 7, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako also reiterated his appeal for the safe release of two nuns and three orphans believed kidnapped in the militant-held area of northern Iraq June 28.

Patriarch Sako also said the city of Mosul “is almost empty of Christians.”

“There are only about 200 [Christian] individuals that may be left there,” he said. “The churches are closed. There was no Mass on Sunday. There are no priests.”

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militants reportedly have occupied both Mosul’s Chaldean Catholic and Syriac Orthodox cathedrals, removing the crosses at the front of the buildings and replacing them with the Islamic state’s black flag.

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A Christian woman who fled from the violence in Mosul, Iraq, holds her daughter as her baby sleeps June 27 at a shelter in Irbil, Iraq. Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad said the city of Mosul “is almost empty of Christians.” CNS photo/Ahmed Jadallah, Reuters

Patriarch Sako compared the current situation for the church in his country to the biblical tale of when Jesus slept in the boat while the storm raged and his disciples were terrified, as recorded in the Gospel of St. Mark.

“Despite everything, we do not despair,” he said. We are invited and pressed to awaken Christ, to take advantage of our faith and continue in a calm sea.”

He urged the faithful to pray for the safe return of the group and for  the future fate of all Christians in Iraq. “I do believe, of course, that prayers can make miracles,” he said.

Numbers dwindling

The kidnapped group went missing around the time the militants shelled Christian villages outside of Mosul, including Qaraqosh, forcing more than 40,000 Christians to flee in terror, many with just the clothes on their backs. The majority of Qaraqosh’s 40,000 inhabitants are Syriac Catholics.

Iraq’s Christian community has dwindled in the years following the U.S.-led invasion.

Iraq’s Christian community was estimated at 800,000 to 1.2 million people before the 2003 war that unleashed a wave of sectarian violence, but the current Christian population is thought to be less than half that number.