New Gaza settlement tenders concern Caritas Jerusalem

The Caritas Medical Centre in Gaza has marked its third anniversary under the sound of missiles falling on Gaza and with the announcement that Israel has issued tenders for 690 new settlement units around occupied East Jerusalem.

The Centre, operated by Caritas Jerusalem, has been active since 2003 both from its Gaza City headquarters as well as throughout the Gaza strip area where a humanitarian crisis continues to swell in the wake of the months-long Israeli assault.

"On Saturday, our team of ten people has taken a brief time off from their work of responding to the current emergency situation in Gaza to celebrate," Caritas Jerusalem said in a statement.

Over the last three years, the Gaza Medical Centre accomplished many tasks thanks to "the team spirit and the hard work which fill the hearts of the Caritas' employees, doctors, nurses and staff as well as the efforts of the administration in Gaza and Jerusalem", the statement said.

The anniversary comes at a time when Israel issued tenders for 690 new settlement units around occupied East Jerusalem.

Caritas Jerusalem raised concerns in a report released to Independent Catholic News on Wednesday about Israel's "illegal" encroachment into Palestinian territory.

Caritas quoted chief Palestinian negotiator, Dr Saeb Erekat, as saying "Israel is, and has been, suffocating Gaza to seize Jerusalem".

The chief negotiator denounced the new tenders as "perverse assaults on human dignity," the Caritas report says.

Dr Erekat emphasised that "Israel restricts the internal movement of 2.4 million Christian and Muslim Palestinians [in the occupied West Bank] so that 430,000 Israeli settlers can roam free."

"In South Africa, they had a name for this," Mr Erekat added in a reference to South Africa's apartheid history, according to Caritas.

"Illegal under international law"

The Caritas report claims that "all of Israel's settlements are illegal under international law", as unanimously confirmed by an International Court of Justice decision in 2004.

The Catholic aid agency claims that international organisations, such as the UN, identify the restrictions on Palestinian movement, including to and from Gaza, as the main cause of the humanitarian crisis in the occupied territory.

"Now, nearly two-thirds of Palestinians live in poverty, up from 50 per cent in 2005," Caritas said.

The new tenders could house as many as 2,800 new settlers in two of the West Bank's largest settlements, Ma'ale Adumim and Beitar Illit.

This could "spell the end of the Two-State Solution", the report continues, citing Dr Erekat.

According to the report, Mr Erekat suggested that events in Gaza could be explained by Israel's desires for key sections of the West Bank, especially East Jerusalem, asserting that Israel might be exploiting the situation in Gaza to distract the world from settlement activity in the West Bank.

"The recent assault on Gaza began long before the capture of the Israeli soldier. Israel is, and has been, suffocating Gaza to seize Jerusalem," he was quoted as saying.

"Let us breathe. We want to be free too," he pleaded.

Holy Land: "Israel is suffocating Gaza to seize Jerusalem" (Independent Catholic News, 6/9/06)
Israel 'suffocating Gaza to seize Jerusalem' (Ekklesia, 7/9/06)
Caritas' medical center in Gaza celebrates its 3rd anniversary (Independent Catholic News, 7/9/06)
Caritas' medical center in Gaza celebrates its 3rd anniversary (ReliefWeb 7/9/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Caritas Internationalis
Caritas Jerusalem in the village of Aboud (Caritas International)
Caritas Australia

Biblical lamentations as Gaza descends into disaster (CathNews, 7/12/06)
Vatican official commends Israel withdrawal from Gaza (CathNews 26/8/05)
Caritas Australia provides assistance to Caritas Jerusalem (CathNews 18/4/02)

8 Sep 2006