Catholic Relief Services calls for ‘immediate end’ to violence as it ramps up aid in Gaza — By: Catholic News Agency

A Palestinian woman assists a child playing on the ruinas of a building destroyed by earlier Israeli bombardment in Gaza City on April 8, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas militant group. / Credit: AFP via Getty Images

CNA Staff, Apr 11, 2024 / 11:45 am (CNA).

Global aid organization Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is calling for an “immediate end” to violence in Gaza as workers struggle to bring critical aid to the population six months into the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

CRS is the official international Catholic relief and development agency of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The aid agency has been a major presence in Gaza since the outset of the war in October 2023, when Hamas invaded Israel, killing 1,200 and kidnapping hundreds of hostages. Israel responded with a major invasion of Gaza. The conflict has reportedly claimed over 33,000 lives in Gaza. 

In a press release this week, the group said it was reissuing its call “for an immediate end to the violence” and “greater humanitarian access to ensure innocent civilians can access food, shelter, and medical attention.” 

CRS also called on “protection for humanitarians and innocent civilians and the immediate release of all hostages and others unjustly detained.”

Jason Knapp, the Holy Land representative for the U.S.-based Catholic group, told CNA last week that while CRS is “working hard to keep our team as safe as possible,” it remains “committed to doing everything we can to address the significant humanitarian needs of civilians in Gaza.”

Knapp told CNA that CRS is expanding its operations in the region. It has set up warehouses, guesthouses, and offices in Rafah and Deir al Balah and is “in the process of setting up additional distribution points throughout Rafah, Khan Younis, and Middle Area.”

Knapp said in the release this week that many of its workers have been displaced and “have lost homes and family members” during the conflict. He said the crisis in the northern part of the territory is “especially dire.”

“We prioritize people living in the most vulnerable situations, so our goal is to begin serving people living in the north as soon as possible,” Knapp said. 

Sean Callahan, the president and CEO of CRS, told CNA in February that the situation in the region is “catastrophic.” Yet he said that in a recent visit, his team witnessed considerable “resiliency” and “hope” from the local population. 

Callahan said workers in Gaza are providing “food commodities” and “hygiene kits,” among other services, to those who live there. At the outset of the conflict, CRS said it was mobilizing “emergency food, water, and living supplies” and “safe and dignified shelter” for those caught in the conflict.

“I was actually very impressed, given the situation on the ground,” Callahan said of his recent visit. “You heard explosions relatively frequently, and jets overhead, and drones. But our teams were still able to register people to get supplies out to them.”

In this week’s release, meanwhile, Nesma Naseem, the group’s shelter field officer in Gaza, said the region is marked by “resilient individuals with dreams, aspirations, and the capacity to rebuild their lives.” 

“Continued assistance and solidarity can make a meaningful difference in their journey toward recovery,” Naseem said. “We hope this bad dream will end soon, and we can rebuild our souls and our lives again.”

Read More