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Vigils held for Gaza

Hundreds have died, many of whom are children, as a result of the ongoing violence in Gaza.
Hundreds have died, many of whom are children, as a result of the ongoing violence in Gaza.
Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images

Dozens of people from all walks of life joined together last night, Friday, to honor and remember the civilians who have died as a result of the current conflict in Gaza. The assembly was held on the steps of the Lancaster County Courthouse. The three hour vigil was a peaceful, non political remembrance of those killed and a general statement against the ongoing violence.

Lancastrians were not alone. In Pakistan, in Quetta, a candlelight vigil was held. Organized by the Organisation of Volunteer Youth Quetta (OVY), speakers at the Quetta vigil spoke out reminding Israel to adhere to the Geneva War Conventions of 1949, specifically to stop targeting civilians.

At a vigil in Corpus Christi, one man spoke to The Caller Times, about his wife and children who are stuck there at the moment, scared for their lives. His family went ahead of him for their vacation, but are now stuck there due to the intense fighting. Kamal Ashour was hopeful the US Embassy would be able to get them out during the cease fire but that cease fire has ceased to exist.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has strongly condemned the 30 July shelling by Israeli military forces of a UN school in Gaza. The school was being used as a shelter for people fleeing the violence. She also spoke out against the shelling of hospitals, places of worship and Gaza’s only electric power plant. She stopped just shy of declaring these actions to be war crimes.

“An attack against humanitarian relief personnel and objects used exclusively for relief operations, is a violation of international humanitarian law and may amount to a war crime,” said Pillay in an UN media release.

The majority of the Gaza Strip's 1.8 million people are dependent on humanitarian aid, according to the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). The destruction of the infrastructure, including the electric power plant, is depriving the already vulnerable people of proper sanitation, clean water, safe housing and medical care.

More than 240,000 people have been displaced inside Gaza, seeking shelter at schools, churches, mosques and other facilities. IOCC staff are on the ground in Gaza, responding to the urgent needs of these displaced families and thousands of other victims of the conflict with the distribution of emergency relief items.

Water systems have run dry and raw sewage runs in the streets. There is little or no electric and insufficient medicine to go around. UNICEF calls the conditions an “outrage.”

IOCC has had a humanitarian presence in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza since 1997, working with communities in the Gaza Strip to improve access to food, employment opportunities, and agricultural production. The IOCC has set up the IOCC Gaza Relief Fund, which will provide immediate relief through the provision of emergency assistance as well as longer-term support.