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Vigils held in Orkney calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza

Publication: The Orkney News

People in Orkney came together again on the steps of St Magnus Cathedral in a vigil calling for a ceasefire.

Ceasefire vigil in Orkney | Photo by The Orkney News Ltd | Licensed for use on Scottish Beacon | All rights reserved

“We unreservedly condemn the Hamas act of terrorism that led to the Israeli blitz on Gaza, but will not condone the mass killing of civilians and children that is being visited on an innocent population.

“The deliberate denial of food, medicine, water and fuel to the 2.3 million people of Gaza, taken alongside the intensive bomb and missile attacks on this tiny, overcrowded enclave is a war crime of massive proportion. 

“We call for an immediate ceasefire and worldwide humanitarian aid to the affected population.”

That was the message from an impromptu vigil held outside the Cathedral which saw members of Orkney Friends of Palestine and Orkney Amnesty International come together on Saturday, 28th to call for an end to the Israeli  bombing of Gaza and a ceasefire in line with the United Nations resolution that has been supported by the vast majority of member countries.  By abstaining from the UN resolution, the British government is, in effect, colluding with Israel’s actions.

On Sunday, the United Nations relief organisation  UNRWA held a service for the 59 staff who have been killed in Gaza.

In desperation, thousands of people broke into several UNRWA warehouses and distribution centres in the middle and southern areas of the Gaza Strip, taking wheat flour and other basic survival items like hygiene supplies.

Thomas White, Director of UNRWA Affairs in the Gaza Strip said:

“People are scared, frustrated and desperate. Tensions and fear are made worse by the cuts in the phones and internet communication lines. They feel that they are on their own, cut off from their families inside Gaza and the rest of the world.”

Nearly 672,000 Internally Displaced People (IDPs) are sheltering in 149 UNRWA installations across the Gaza Strip, facing increasingly desperate conditions. The ability to provide lifesaving assistance has been further hindered by the 36-hour disruption in communications that affected the whole Gaza Strip, including humanitarian organizations, between 27 and the early hours of 29 October.

The Scottish Government’s Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has written to UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman urging the UK government to use its resettlement scheme to help refugees from Gaza.

“Despite the horrific conditions we are seeing in Gaza, we know that many Palestinians will choose to stay, and they must be supported with humanitarian aid to do so. However, there will also be some who want to leave. The Scottish Government has called upon the international community to commit to a refugee resettlement programme.

“In the past, people across Scotland and the UK have opened up their hearts and communities to welcome those from Syria, Ukraine, Afghanistan, and many other countries. We are ready to do so again.

“I call on the UK Government to use the already established UK Resettlement Scheme, which works with the UN High Commission for Refugees, to allow a route to safety for the most vulnerable such as children and families, those with severe health needs, and those with links to residents in Scotland.”

The Scottish Government has already pledged £500,000 in humanitarian funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency to help displaced people in Gaza.

On Monday 30th of October, people in Orkney came together again on the steps of St Magnus Cathedral in a vigil calling for a ceasefire.

Another demonstration will be held on Saturday 4th of November 12 till 1pm on the cathedral steps.

Here’s a short film from Monday’s event filmed by Mike Robertson for The Orkney News.

Gaza ceasefire vigil in Orkney

UNWRA Report:

The Gaza Strip 

According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, 8,005 people have been killed since 7 October, including 3,324 children, 2,062 women and 460 elderly persons, and 20,242 injured. This is in addition to 1,650 reported missing, presumably under the rubble of destroyed buildings, including 940 children.

Overall, nearly 1,400 Israelis and foreign nationals have been killed in Israel, according to the Israeli authorities, the vast majority on 7 October (OCHA).

Of the total displaced in UNRWA shelters, over 511,000 persons are sheltering in 92 shelters in Middle, Khan Younis and Rafah areas, an increase of around 13,000 IDPs since the last update. More IDPs keep approaching UNRWA premises to seek a safe haven. The shelters, however, have no further capacity nor space to host new IDPs, forcing many people to sleep on the streets.

The total number of IDPs across the Gaza Strip is estimated at around 1.4 million. On top of the IDPs hosted in UNRWA shelters, according to the Ministry of Social Development in Gaza, approximately 121,000 IDPs are in public institutions, primarily hospitals. Among them, up to 60,000 people are currently seeking shelter at the al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza. Some 79,000 IDPs are in government schools and about 550,000 are taking shelter in host communities.

Assistance currently available is not enough to cover the most basic needs of IDPs and host communities alike.