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Church Group: Gaza-Israel Bloodshed Must Stop Immediately

( [email protected] ) Dec 29, 2008 05:25 AM EST
The raging arms conflict between Hamas in Gaza and the Israeli military must stop “immediately,” declared a global church body on Monday.
Palestinians gather around the ruins of a building after an Israeli missile strike hit the home of a Hamas member in Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip, Monday, Dec. 29, 2008. Israel's air force obliterated symbols of Hamas power on the third day of its overwhelming Gaza assault Monday, striking a house next to the Hamas premier's home, devastating a security compound and flattening a five-story building at a university closely linked to the Islamic group. (Photo: AP Images / Fadi Adwan)

The raging arms conflict between Hamas in Gaza and the Israeli military must stop “immediately,” declared a global church body on Monday.

The World Council of Churches (WCC), which has been outspoken about their support for a Palestinian state, condemned the violence against Gaza and called on governments in the region and abroad to seek the protection of “those who are at risk…on both sides of the border.”

“The deaths and suffering of the last three days are dreadful and shameful and will achieve nothing but more deaths and suffering,” stated the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, WCC’s general secretary, in a statement on Monday.

The “bombardment of one of the most densely populated places on earth … must stop immediately,” he added.

More than 300 people have been killed – most of them Hamas militants – in three days of Israeli airstrikes, according to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).

In addition to the hundreds killed, more than 1,000 people are wounded.

Hospitals in Gaza are “almost incapable of functioning” and medical facilities are now “bleeding every resource available,” reported Iyad Nasr, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross on Monday, according to CNN.

Also on Monday, Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak declared “all-out war” against Hamas in retaliation for rockets launched into Israeli territory, including more than 40 rockets fired that day alone.

In total, more than 150 rockets have been launched into Israeli territory since the resurgence of violence between the long-time foes. One of the rockets killed an Israeli at a construction site about 6 miles north of Gaza, and wounded eight others, a hospital worker told CNN. The Israeli death is the second since the air raids began Saturday.

“We have stretched our hand in peace many times to the Palestinian people. We have nothing against the people of Gaza,” said Israeli defense minister Barak. “But this is an all-out war against Hamas and its branches.”

The White House called on Hamas, which it considers a terrorist group, to stop the continuous rocket fire into Israel.

“In order for the violence to stop, Hamas must stop firing rockets into Israel and agree to respect a sustainable and durable cease-fire,” White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe expressed in a statement.

The U.N. Security Council has called for both sides to immediately stop the violence, but both sides have vowed to continue the attack to defend their land.

On Monday, some 50 trucks carrying relief aid were allowed into Gaza to provide a little help to the worsening humanitarian situation.

“We had about 40 trucks yesterday, we hope [to have] about 100 today,” said Karen AbuZayd of UNRWA.

“But we need a lot more than that because we were completely out of stock.”

Meanwhile, Iran is trying to ship 2,000 tons of food and water to Gaza on Monday, according to an Iranian media report.

Iran has long supported the fellow Islamic extremist government in Gaza by providing it with weapons and training. Both Iran’s government and Hamas do not recognize Israel’s right to exist. In the past, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for the destruction of Israel.

According to the head of Iran’s Red Crescent, Masoud Khatami, Iran plans to deliver three more ships of humanitarian aid, in addition to the tons of food, to Gaza via Egypt.

Meanwhile, an influential group of conservative Iranian clerics has recruited about 3,550 volunteers to fight Israel in response to the air raids on the Gaza Strip as of Monday, according to The Associated Press.

The volunteer fighters were gathered by the Combatant Clergy Society’s Web site, which gives volunteers three choices on how to fight Israel: military, financial and propaganda.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared Sunday that anyone killed defending Palestinians in the Gaza Strip against Israel would be considered a martyr.