Gaza's bloodiest day: Christians call for ceasefire

Palestinians watch rescuers searching for bodies and survivors under the rubble of an apartment building, destroyed by an Israeli missile strike, in Gaza City, Monday, July 21.AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis

The United Nation Security Council's call for a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants has been welcomed by churches and Christians working in the region.

Council members were only able to agree on "elements to the press", the weakest form of Security Council action, at the meeting which happened late on Sunday evening.

After the bloodiest day in Gaza yesterday since the latest series of attacks began a fortnight ago, more than 500 Palestinians have died, as well as 20 Israelis.

It followed a failed attempt to negotiate a ceasefire in Egypt last week.

The Methodist Church welcomed the condemnation of escalating violence.

"The situation in Gaza is a serious concern for all those who work and pray for a long-lasting peace in the region," Doug Swanney, Connexional Secretary for the Methodist Church in Great Britain, said. "We pray that the UN's call for an immediate ceasefire will be heard and that violence will cease on both sides."

The Church of Scotland has previously added its voice to those calling for an immediate end to hostilities.

"The Church of Scotland fully supports the calls from fellow Christians in the Middle East for an immediate end to the current hostilities and the siege of Gaza, as well as serious and committed efforts to come to a long-term peace agreement," it said in a statement.

"The disastrous present action, in which the majority of those killed are innocent women and children, is a reminder that what is needed is a comprehensive, long term peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians."

"Just simply stopping the fighting, while a move in the right direction, is not an answer," said Jeremy Moodey, CEO of Embrace the Middle East.

"There's an increasing humanitarian crisis inside Gaza. The UN says that it will be unliveable by 2020; many would argue it's unliveable now because of Israel's blockade."

Without a ceasefire, humanitarian is all the more difficult, particularly since Gaza is one of the world's most densely populated stretches of land.

Moodey said: "The area that was assaulted yesterday, Shuja'iyya, is an area where we support a clinic run by Palestinian Christians. The notion of indiscriminate shelling – it beggars belief.

"What's troubling is that on the part of Israel there doesn't seem to be any sensitivity to the humanitarian consequences."

On July 11 Archbishop Justin Welby called Christians to pray for peace in the region, and said: "As each day passes we see more innocent lives, including those of children, lost in the terrible cycle of revenge – no good can possibly come of this. It makes the search for a lasting peace that much harder and more elusive."