Monday, January 26

Long Road Ahead

The fragile ceasefire continues to hold in Gaza and both Hamas and Israel have submitted proposals for a longer-term ceasefire, in ongoing talks brokered by Egypt.

Israel has proposed an 18-month ceasefire with partial opening of borders into Gaza. It also demands an end to weapons smuggling and the release of captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit.

Hamas has proposed a 12-month ceasefire with complete opening of all border crossings, which would be monitored by Turkey and the European Union.

Meanwhile, MCC has joined other aid organizations in pressing Israeli and Hamas officials to grant “full and unhindered access humanitarian access to Gaza.”

“It is unacceptable that staff of international aid agencies with expertise in emergency response are still not given full access into Gaza and that the crossings are not fully operational for humanitarian and commercial flow of goods and people,” said Charles Clayton, chair of the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), in a Jan. 24 press release.

A handful of international humanitarian workers were allowed into Gaza, Jan. 22, for the first time in months. MCC staff hopes to visit Gaza, Feb. 1-5, to meet with partners and assess the damage from 23 days of war.

Early estimates place physical damage at nearly $2.0 billion, including some 20,000 Palestinian homes damaged or destroyed. According to the United Nations, 100,000 Gazans have been left homeless by the war.

But Father Manuel Musallam, long-time MCC friend and pastor of the Holy Family Church in Gaza, says that physical needs are only part of the challenge that lies ahead. “As well as the destruction and physical injuries the mental trauma of our people is incalculable,” Musallam reflected in a recent letter. “They will need help and support for years to come.”

Yesterday, children in Gaza returned to school. But teachers report that the trauma of war is not far from their minds.

The road to re-building will be long and difficult. A more permanent ceasefire; trauma counseling; unrestricted access for humanitarian agencies; and a steady flow of food, medicines, and supplies for rebuilding are good next steps.

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

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