Cardinal Oscar Rodrguez Maradiaga, president of Caritas Internationalis, has called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza to allow aid workers to care for the injured and dying.

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Palestinian relatives from the Deeb family mourn on January 7, 2009 during the funeral of 10 people from their family who were killed yesterday in an Israeli strike on a UN school in Gaza, in the Jabalia refugee camp, northern Gaza strip. Israeli forces blazed into towns across Gaza yesterday striking Hamas targets and also hitting three UN-run schools in attacks that killed at least 48 people and sparked urgent new ceasefire calls. Since Israel started it military offensive in Gaza 660 Palestinians have been killed, including about 200 children, with more than 2,950 wounded, Gaza medics say. AFP PHOTO/MHAMUD HAMS (Photo credit should read MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

The cardinal said, “Caritas and our Catholic Church partners in the Holy Land call for an immediate ceasefire to enable the sick and wounded to be treated. Innocent people are suffering because aid agencies cannot reach them due to the Israeli military action.

“Caritas calls for action from the U.S.A, the E.U., and the international community on pressing for an immediate ceasefire to create the necessary environment in ! Gaza for aid agencies to be able to care for the wounded. War cannot be justified by either Israel or Hamas. Arguments over proportionality are morally repugnant when we are talking about the lives of innocent children.”

The aid agency urged an immediate end both to Hamas rocket attacks on southern Israel and the Israeli offensive in Gaza.

Caritas Jerusalem Secretary-General Claudette Habesch explained, “Our staff in Gaza is witnessing a collapse of medical services. People are dying in their homes because they can’t get treatment. There are 2,053 hospitals beds in Gaza and 2,500 people wounded by the Israeli bombardment. Doctors say they lack bandages and antiseptic.”

Cristina, a 15-year-old Christian girl, is one of the victims of the Israeli-Hamas conflict in Gaza.

She died of a heart attack after days of cold and lack of sleep due to the bombardment. The account of her death, written by Father Manuel Musallam, the parish priest of the Latin parish in Gaza, was read in Arabic on Sunday at a gathering of the 13 heads of Christian Churches in Jerusalem to implore peace.

Cristina is one of the 600 Palestinians to have died in the 11-day Israeli offensive, in which U.N. and Palestinian officials report that nearly half of the dead are civilians.

The plea for peace from the Christian leaders was seconded in Rome by Benedict XVI. He said: “The dramatic news that comes from Gaza shows how the rejection of dialogue! leads to situations that weigh indescribably on the population, who once again become victims of hate and war.

“Hate and war are not the solution to problems. Recent history confirms it as well. Let us pray, therefore, so that ‘the Child of the manger … inspires in the authorities and leaders of both fronts, Israeli and Palestinian, an immediate action to finish with the current tragic situation.'”

JERUSALEM, JAN. 6, 2009 (