Civilians in Gaza used a brief cease-fire to spill onto the streets and replenish scarce supplies, Church representatives have said, according to the Catholic News Service.
The temporary end of hostilities July 17 was to facilitate moving desperately needed aid into the area as well as give those who could leave a chance to escape, said the Vatican's Fides missionary news agency.
Three foreign Sisters of the Institute of the Incarnate Word were to leave Gaza after Israeli missiles destroyed a home very close to Holy Family Church, the territory's only Catholic parish, the agency said July 17.
However, the parish priest, Father Jorge Hernandez, was staying as well as sisters of the Missionaries of Charity and the 28 disabled children and nine elderly women in their care, it said. The Argentine priest and sisters had carried the children from their facility to his parish after bombing threats in their area.
Father Hernandez said crime was on the rise and that 'young children are beginning to get sick because of fear, stress, shock waves and for the continuous noise' from the airstrikes.
Fides reported that people had used the lull in the bombings July 17 to leave their homes to get money from the banks and buy basic necessities.
The five-hour 'humanitarian truce' between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas group came after the Israeli Defense Forces launched an air offensive into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip in early July in response to Hamas militants lobbing missiles into Israel.
Media reported July 17 that more than 220 Palestinians, mostly civilians, had been killed and more than 1,500 injured in the 10 days of bombings. Father Raed Abusahlia, a priest in Ramallah, West Bank, and general director of Caritas Jerusalem, told the radio that more than 400 homes in the densely populated Gaza Strip had been completely destroyed and 1,000 more damaged.
FULL STORY Cease-fire gives Gaza civilians chance to assess damage, seek aid (CNS)