Christian Aid partners in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) are stockpiling food and medicines to prepare for the repercussions of a possible war in Iraq. They fear that, as world attention focuses on Iraq, Israeli incursions into the OPT will become even more fierce, with serious humanitarian consequences.
Sue Turrell, Christian Aid’s programme manager for the Palestinians and Israel, returned to London from the OPT this week after discussions with partners about emergency preparations. Local partners across the West Bank and Gaza Strip are concerned that, under the pressure of war, already high levels of closure and curfew could become total.
During the 1991 Gulf War, Palestinians suffered nearly two months of curfew. People were only allowed out of their homes every few days, briefly, to shop for essentials. The Gulf War also marked the introduction of travel permits - cards with magnetic strips - for all Palestinian men.
‘You can say that the emergency has already begun,’ said Sue Turrell. ‘In the five short days that I was there, the Israeli armed forces invaded three times, while 16 Israeli civilians were killed by a suicide bomb. People are becoming desperate for food and medicines. We need to know that, if the situation worsens, partners are prepared.’
Since the end of January, 110 Palestinians have been killed, many of them civilians.
Christian Aid partners including the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees (UPMRC) the Middle East Council of Churches and the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC) are storing dry goods, tinned food and medical supplies in locations around the West Bank and Gaza Strip. With total closure and curfew a possibility, these essentials need to be near to people’s homes so that they are accessible within the few hours that might be available to leave their homes.
Two-thirds of Palestinians now live below the poverty line and have few resources to withstand weeks of curfew. In Israel, Christian Aid partners are also beginning to prepare collections of food and blankets to send to the OPT in the event of war - what could be an essential humanitarian lifeline.