As the death toll climbs each day in the conflict between the Israeli military and Hamas forces in Gaza, leaders from the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) are praying for a break in the violence that has killed hundreds of children and thousands of civilians.
Those leaders reiterate that neither Israelis nor Palestinians, who have gone back and forth blaming each other for the outbreak of violence, will achieve long-lasting peace as long as the occupation of Palestinian lands continues.
"Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), along with our partners in the Middle East and elsewhere, are calling for an immediate cessation to the violence in Gaza," said the Rev. James Moos, executive minister for the UCC’s Wider Church Ministries.
There could be hope on the horizon after the announcement of a 72-hour ceasefire to begin Friday morning at 8 a.m. local time. The ceasefire is considered critical to giving civilians an opportunity for humanitarian relief and restocking food and water, to bury the dead, and to make repairs to water and energy system. During the ceasefire, ground forces will remain in place, but Moos hopes it can lead to a greater resolution.
"Well over a thousand lives have been lost thus far, including the lives of some 250 Palestinian children," Moos said. "Much of the death and destruction has been inflicted with weapons supplied by the United States. By itself, however, a cease-fire is insufficient. The root causes of the conflict need to be addressed, and those causes include Israel’s occupation and the siege of Gaza. Apart of justice neither Israelis nor Palestinians will live in peace."
In the three-plus weeks of conflict, more than 1,300 people in Gaza have been killed, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza. Most of those deaths are civilians, the United Nations said. On the other side, 56 soldiers have died, with three civilian deaths in Israel, according to the Israeli Defense Forces.
Shells rained down on schools converted into shelters for a second straight day. Thursday, a United Nations school housing displaced residents was nearly hit. A day earlier, on Wednesday July 30, another U.N. building that sheltered more than 3,000 Palestinians was hit by artillery, which killed more than a dozen people.
The U.N. blamed Israel for Wednesday’s attack. It was the sixth such attack on a U.N.-run school since July 8, when fighting broke out.
American leaders have called on Israel to be more careful to protect civilians, but as a source told CNN, when Israeli military leaders asked for more ammunition from the U.S., they agreed to supply it.
One of Global Ministries’ partners in the region, the YWCA of Palestine, continues to rally what support it can to lift up the needless deaths of civilians and children. Believing that the conflict "needs the world’s attention and action," YWCA-Palestine is calling for the prosecution of war crimes by the Israeli military, and imposing trade sanctions and weapons embargoes.
"We need your support in this," said Mira Rizeq, the national general secretary for YWCA-Palestine. "We need you to tell the story to your governments to your churches, communities, children, women, and all. Gaza needs you to support them."
UPDATE (Friday, Aug. 1, 9:30 a.m.): The ceasefire lasted less than two hours. The conflict has resumed with both sides continuing to blame each other, with Israel pointing to an “abduction” of an Israeli soldier and the deaths of two others, and Hamas claiming the Israeli military attacked a region in south Gaza with bombing that killed at least 27 and injured about 100.