LEICESTER, United Kingdom – We are finally a step closer to the creating the conditions needed to prevent further loss of life, to ensure the release of all remaining hostages and to address the catastrophic levels of hunger now faced by families in Gaza, according to England’s leading Catholic international aid agency.

The United Nations Security Council on Monday passed a resolution that calls for an immediate cease-fire during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It also called for an unconditional release of all hostages.

The Israeli offensive in Gaza has killed over 32,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials, and driven a third of Gaza’s population to the brink of starvation.

It was launched in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which killed around 1,200 people.

Hamas also took around 250 Israelis hostage, and are still holding around 100 of them. They also hold an estimated 30 bodies of Israelis killed. Most of the rest were freed during a cease-fire last year in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners.

CAFOD is the official international aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

It says Gaza is one of the most dangerous places on earth for civilians and for nearly six months has been subject to relentless bombing – including in densely populated areas to which people have been ordered to evacuate. The agency says Churches, hospitals and schools can no longer be considered safe havens in the territory.

“CAFOD has been calling for a ceasefire for many months and we welcome the UN Security Council Resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire and the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages,” said Elizabeth Funnell, CAFOD’s Country Programs Representative for the Middle East.

“We are finally a step closer to creating the conditions needed to prevent further loss of life, to ensure the release of all remaining hostages and to address the catastrophic levels of hunger now faced by families in Gaza,” she said after the UN Security Council passed its resolution.

Funnell said Monday’s news is testament to the efforts of people all across the world who have come together in prayer and in protest, to raise their voices and demand governments take action.

“It will be vital going forward that this pressure is maintained, so the UK government is in no doubt as to how much its citizens desperately want to see this life-saving ceasefire become a reality, before yet more children are killed by bombing or starved to death,” she said.

“The UK Government must now therefore exert every effort to ensure that this resolution is implemented,” she continued.

The British Royal Air Force airdropped over 10 ton of food supplies into Gaza for the first time on Monday, as part of international efforts to provide life-saving assistance to civilians.

British Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said the UK has already tripled its aid budget to Gaza, but he says the government wanted to “go further in order to reduce human suffering.”

“The hell that was unleashed by the October 7th Hamas attack has led to wide-scale innocent loss of life. The UK’s goal is to use every route possible to deliver life-saving aid, whether that is by road, air or new routes via the sea,” Shapps said.

He also said the British government is continuing to call on Israel to provide port access and open more land crossings in order to increase incoming aid deliveries to Gaza.

Despite the UN resolution, fighting has continued overnight between Israel and Hamas and the southern Gaza city of Rafah was bombed by Israeli warplanes overnight. Gunfighting also took place around hospitals in the cities of Khan Younis and Gaza City.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists Israel cannot defeat Hamas without going into Rafah, where it says the group has four battalions composed of thousands of fighters.

However, the international community is raising its arms over the large number of deaths of Palestinians in Israel’s current conflict with Hamas.

CAFOD says that in line with the International Court of Justice’s Provisional measures issued on Jan. 26, the UK Government “must work to address the catastrophic lack of humanitarian assistance reaching the people of Gaza which has already led to the death of 31 people including at least 27 children from starvation and malnutrition.”

“This includes ensuring adequate funding to UNRWA, the primary UN Agency providing assistance to Palestinians, and which plays an essential role in Gaza,” Funnell said.

“Just [Monday], UNRWA calls on Israel to lift restrictions on access to northern Gaza where 1 in 3 children below the age of 2 is now acutely malnourished. Our partner in Gaza, sheltering near the Holy Family Church in Gaza City told me, ‘The struggle to secure our daily bread is exhausting… Life is shattered here. For the first time in our  history, we are making the communion bread in Gaza with our own hands’,” she added.

Despite the dire situation, Funnell said CAFOD’s partners in Gaza continue to work to deliver essentials such as food, water, tents, bedding and are providing specialized support for trauma as well as activities for children to distract them from the constant bombardments.

“At the start of Holy Week for Christians and during the Holy Month of Ramadan, CAFOD continues to call for a full and permanent ceasefire in Gaza now. An immediate, unconditional, and lasting ceasefire is essential to halt the death and destruction. It is also the only way to secure the release of hostages,” she said.

“Then, the arduous task of building lasting peace and justice for Israelis and Palestinians can commence. As Pope Francis reminds us, peace cannot be achieved through arms alone, and Israelis and Palestinians deserve lasting peace,” Funnell said.

Follow Charles Collins on X: @CharlesinRome