Sunday, January 11

Day 16

Today is Day 16 of Israel’s military assault on Gaza, which began Dec. 27 with the stated goal of ending Hamas rocket-fire into southern Israel.

Code named “Operation Cast Lead” -- after a Hanukkah song about cast lead dreidels (toys that looks like spinning tops) – the war is now responsible for 875 Palestinian deaths, including some 235 children. Thirteen Israelis have been killed in the fighting.

Today Israeli troops are in a fierce gun battle with Hamas near Gaza City, which may signal the beginning of “phase three” of Israel’s military campaign. Analysts fear this stage will involve high casualties as troops penetrate deeper into urban settings and refugee camps.

Yesterday, Khaled Meshaal, chairman of Hamas’ political wing, called Israel’s attack “a holocaust” in Gaza” and said Israel has ruined the chance for peace. Meshaal demanded that Israel immediately end its aggression in Gaza, withdraw its troops, lift the economic siege and open all crossings into Gaza. He called for Arab nations and all Palestinians to unite in resisting Israel’s actions in Gaza.

In Amman, Cindy and I worship with an Anglican congregation. In our service last evening, the priest read a letter from Rev. Suheil Dawani, the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem. Bishop Dawani described the dire conditions at an Anglican-run hospital in the Gaza Strip:

“Our Diocese has one of 11 hospitals serving a population of 1.5 million residents in the Gaza Strip. The Al Ahli Arab (Anglican) Hospital has been in operation for over 100 years and has a very dedicated medical staff. . . .
During the best of times they are stretched to their maximum meeting the medical needs of this populous community. Now, during the current military conflict with its heavy toll on human life and material, the hospital faces even greater responsibilities and challenges. . . . Every day since the beginning of military operations, the hospital has received 20-40 injured or wounded patients. A large proportion of them require hospitalization and surgery. . . .
In addition, the conflict has brought new types of medical and surgical conditions. For example, patients with burns and acute, crippling psychological trauma are being seen more frequently. Because it is not possible for aid workers to enter Gaza at this time, the hospital’s staff is working around the clock, struggling with the effects of exhaustion and against limited resources in a conflicted area of ongoing military operations. . . .
The hospital’s windows have all been blown out or shattered from rocket and missile concussion and cold permeates the entire premises. Plastic sheeting to cover the windows could alleviate some of the cold but is unavailable now. Food supplies are scant throughout the Gaza strip and maintaining patients’ nutritional needs at the hospital has been difficult, especially for the most vulnerable. . . .
Efforts to help alleviate some of the shortages are underway and we hope that the shipments will arrive quickly. Through the ICRC limited amounts of diesel fuel are being delivered to keep the electrical generators functional for life saving and other essential equipment. We are working with a number of related governmental and international voluntary agencies to speed up the delivery and steady supply of needed medicines and food. . . .
On a “normal” day, approximately 600 life line trucks a day bring supplies to the Gaza Strip. Many are under the auspices of UNRWA and international relief agencies because about two-thirds of Gaza’s residents are Refugees and living in UNRWA Camps. During this time of conflict, that number of trucks is not seen in a week or more. Because of the reduced deliveries, medical items, nutritional food, and other basic supplies are now scarce items, if available at all, for our brothers and sisters in Gaza.
As we continue to pray for communal Palestinian and Israeli PEACE, we especially remember these dedicated individuals who cannot leave, but most importantly do not want to leave, but continue to do all they can to help.”

Bishop Dawani’s depiction of Gaza matches those reported by three MCC partners in Gaza. The situation is chaotic and fearful.
Today I am in the 8th day of a liquids-only fast for peace, which began at the time of Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza. While truce talks continue in Egypt, neither Israel nor Hamas seem ready to make the first move to meet the other’s demands. In my gut, I fear that this conflict will escalate further.
It may be some days before I eat again. More importantly, it may be many days yet before the children of Gaza have enough to eat, a warm place to sleep and a safe place to play.

J. Daryl Byler, lives in Amman, Jordan. He and his spouse, Cindy, are MCC Representatives for Palestine, Jordan, Iraq and Iran. They have three young adult children living in the United States.

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