In armed conflict, it is the civilian populations that suffer the most. This is particularly true when violence takes place in heavily populated areas such as the Gaza Strip, where 1.7 million people are crowded into a 360 square kilometer piece of land.
Since 2001, Hamas militants have launched thousands of rockets and mortars into Israel from the Gaza Strip, knowingly endangering civilians, and have dug tunnels under borders for smuggling weapons and staging attacks.
Then, in June, three Israeli teens were kidnapped and murdered by Palestinian militants. Just days later, a group of Israeli Jews kidnapped and killed a Palestinian boy. Tension in the region mounted, and once again, Hamas intensified its launching of rockets from Gaza into Israel, and Israel launched a ground incursion and an airstrike against Hamas in Gaza. A circular escalation of violence commenced, and continues today. And yet again, civilians bear the brunt of the punishment.
“We are deeply concerned about the consequences of Israel’s appropriate and legitimate effort to defend itself. No country can stand by while rockets are attacking it and tunnels are dug in order to come into your country and assault your people,” said Secretary of State John Kerry. “But always, in any kind of conflict, there is a concern about civilians, about children, women, communities that are caught in it. And we are particularly trying to focus on a way to respond to their very significant needs.”
To help alleviate some of the immediate humanitarian crisis, the United States is providing a 47 million dollar package for direct humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza. Of this sum, 15 million will go to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA, in response to UN’s 60 million dollar Gaza Flash Appeal, to help provide food, household items like blankets and diapers, and medicine to the thousands receiving humanitarian assistance from the organization.
The remaining 32 million dollars will be administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development, to address humanitarian and emergency relief needs in Gaza, including helping to ensure a clean water supply.
Enough innocent civilians have died, both in Gaza and in Israel. The United States calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a humanitarian cease-fire.