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If you do one thing for Gaza today, do this

Posted by Arwa Mhanna Oxfam Communications Officer in Gaza

1st Aug 2014

3 steps to peace

Tweet a message to the Foreign Office:

.@foreignoffice, like @oxfamgb I believe violence in Gaza must end now. Please back 3 steps to lasting peace today. https://pic.twitter.com/TkUzcsvvKa

Last weekend a brief 12 hour cessation of hostilities was announced in Gaza. Oxfam teams were able to deliver more vital water and aid to people who have fled their homes and lost everything in the violence of the past few weeks. Soon afterwards, the violence resumed. A permanent ceasefire, and an end to the blockade of Gaza, is urgently needed before countless more lives are lost.

Oxfam's Arwa Mhanna travelled around Gaza City in the brief window of calm...

I went to see my family for the first time since the start of this crisis. They live just five minutes drive away, but it has been too dangerous to visit. My mother was so happy to see me. My little niece and nephew jumped for joy. But when I asked them about the past few weeks they fell silent and just stared.

My niece is only six years old, but she has already lived through three terrible wars. That is why we at Oxfam are demanding that there has to be a ceasefire now, and that this agreement has be a genuine effort to create lasting peace and put a full stop to this endless suffering. The blockade on Gaza must be lifted. People have to be able to be free to move, to trade, to grow, to learn, to leave to see their families - they have to be able to live. For as long as the blockade is there they can't. And I fear that there will never be peace.

If we don't act soon I am worried that whole generations will be scarred for life by this war. So many children have been killed, injured or fled their homes these past weeks. Tens of thousands will need psychological care for many years to deal with the horrors they have witnessed. And it is not only the children. I saw one of my Oxfam colleagues... it's only three weeks since I saw her last, but I hardly recognized her pale and exhausted face. She was still in shock as she told me how she fled the Israeli bombing around her home, running through streets of dead bodies and homes turned to rubble.

Gazans shelter in schools.

More than 240,000 people across Gaza have fled and sought refuge in schools, mosques, churches and hospitals. I went to Al Shifa hospital, where Oxfam and our local partners are delivering safe water to families sheltering there.

They are in desperate conditions and have almost nothing - little food, water or shelter. But they have no other option - there is no escape in Gaza, no safe place for people to hide. The hospital is the safest place they could find, even though many hospitals and health clinics have also been bombed and shelled. I spoke with one of the doctors, who was completely exhausted after days treating dozens of injured civilians. His eyes were full of tears as he told me of the casualties and the conditions people are living in, and how he wished he could help them more. I had no words to express how I felt.

Empty Gaza streets.

Outside, the streets that have been empty for the past few weeks were full of people rushing around. Gaza's streets are always busy at this time of year as people prepare for the Eid Festival at the end of Ramadan, buying new clothes and chocolates and toys for their children.

This time it was different. People took advantage of the brief calm to visit family and buy supplies before the bombs start to fall again. People searched for the dead and checked on their homes. In one area, dozens of dead bodies were pulled from beneath the rubble of destroyed buildings - they have been there for days as medical teams have been unable to access the area. I received heartbreaking news that an old colleague was killed when his ambulance was hit by an airstrike.

The death toll has now passed 1,100, with more than 6,000 injured - the vast majority of them civilians. The numbers are huge, but they are more than statistics - these are real people who had families and friends, jobs and dreams. Everyone in Gaza is affected.

There is such pain in my heart to see so many people going through so much suffering, with no chance to escape. The ceasefire lasted only 12 hours, and as I write the violence has returned. On Monday, Al Shifa hospital - where I met so many brave people - was hit, with many casualties being reported. I don't know if the people I met are alive or dead. But I still hope that with your help, this will end soon.

If you do only one thing for Gaza today, do this. The killing must stop for good. I hope the world is listening to the mothers, fathers and children of Gaza and will help bring peace before more of them are killed.

Listen to Arwa's latest audio report:

Blog post written by Arwa Mhanna

Oxfam Communications Officer in Gaza

More by Arwa Mhanna