“Our staff is helpless”, Caritas MONA Says as Deadly Raids Continue in Israel-Hamas War

Smoke increases after Israeli airstrikes on the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Oct. 10, 2023. | Credit: Anas-Mohammed/Shutterstock

The West Bank remains “a huge prison” where people cannot move to get basic services, and Gaza is reeling in a deep humanitarian crisis, a Caritas official has said, noting that staff of the charity arm of the Church who are based in the two zones are unable to provide any help to those affected by the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

Bombing was halted in Gaza in a four-day ceasefire that started on Friday to allow for the exchange of hostages between Israel and Hamas. 

Israeli forces however reportedly continued conducting deadly raids in the ceasefire period, and prevented aid from reaching the occupied West Bank.

Israel has also declared that it will resume its military offensive in Gaza once the ceasefire period ends.

In an interview with ACI Africa, Karam Abi Yazbeck, the Regional Coordinator of Caritas North Africa and the Middle East (MONA) said that just like everyone else in the embattled region, the charity’s staff have lost their families in bombings and can’t find a place where they can feel safe.


Their movement is also limited, and they are unable to deliver aid to the suffering, Karam said.

“We have Caritas Jerusalem, based in Jerusalem but they have offices in different places of the West Bank. They have not been spared by the raids and they now have to work from home. The Israeli army is not allowing them to travel from one city to the other, and so, they can’t make it to their offices,” Karam said on the sidelines on a training that Caritas Internationalis (CI) organized in Nairobi last week.

He added, “We also have a Caritas team of about 100 people working in Gaza. Unfortunately, so far, we lost two of our colleagues in the airstrikes. The two were bombed alongside their families.”

Karam said that the Caritas staff in Gaza have been on the run, trying to find a safe place to stay.

“Unfortunately, there is no single safe place to stay in Gaza at the moment. Any place can be bombed. They are bombing Churches and hospitals, and so, there is no real safe place that people can hide. There is no guarantee of seeing the next day,” he said, and added, “Our Caritas staff share in this insecurity every day. They are just like any other community members who are deprived of all other services and they can’t do anything.”

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The Caritas MONA official who is based in Beirut, Lebanon noted that what is happening in Gaza and the West Bank is different from conflicts other places are experiencing in the world, and explained, “Firstly, the two regions are occupied territories.”

He continued, “The ongoing situation is not a war between two countries. Neither is it a civil conflict between two groups in a country. We have Israel as an occupying state having an army there and now bombing Gaza which has been under siege since long ago.”

He described Gaza as “a huge prison where people cannot move” and cannot go out to save their lives.

In the West Bank, Karam said, many people have been killed and imprisoned by the Israeli army. 

“Hospitals have been attacked, Churches destroyed and so many lives lost,” he said, and added, “Unfortunately, people are not allowed to leave. They cannot go to Egypt to be refugees there. They are blocked in a small area.”


He noted that only a few people who were injured at the beginning of the war were evacuated to get medical help. Others remain trapped in a place where they are deprived from electricity, from water, from food, and from fuel.

Hospitals, he said, no longer have the resources to keep the system running. 

He noted that with all that is happening, especially in Gaza, humanitarian agencies such as Caritas cannot provide aid to the people who are suffering. 

“This is a very complex situation on all fronts, especially politically,” he said, and expressed optimism that a ceasefire would alleviate the suffering of the people in Gaza and in the West Bank.

The Caritas MONA official has joined the call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, saying, “After a month and a half of bombing, the situation there is becoming terrible. People are dying every day.”

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“We appeal for a permanent ceasefire. We see children, the elderly, and all kinds of helpless civilians killed every day. They are living in very difficult situations, and we don’t know how much longer they can take this,” he said and appealed to those involved in the conflict to keep channels for humanitarian support open for aid to reach those who are suffering. 

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.