A JOURNALIST from the Carlisle area who has been living near Jerusalem for over two decades feels he has a duty to stay and support people from both sides as conflict engulfs the region. 

Paul Calvert first moved from Welton to the Middle East 21 years ago as a volunteer at a church but after routinely conducting interviews, he would go on to create community Christian radio station Hayah in Bethlehem. 

"The situation is very difficult. I think everyone is really shocked and surprised at what has happened," Paul said. 

"The Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are getting ready for a full-scale invasion. It's whether or not other people get involved. 

"Lebanon in the north have been firing into Israel, and Syria as well - if they begin to get involved, if it becomes much more serious because Hezbollah (Lebanon's armed group) in the north has much more weapons than Hamas," Paul said. 

The war, which has already claimed at least 2,200 lives on both sides, is expected to escalate further — compounded by the misery of Palestinians in Gaza, who have already seen their sole power plant cut off as well as food supplies. 

News and Star: An Israeli soldier walks outside a police station that was overrun by Hamas militants in Sderot An Israeli soldier walks outside a police station that was overrun by Hamas militants in Sderot (Image: Ohad Zwigenberg/AP/PA)

The decades-long situation escalated following an assault by Hamas militants on October 6. 

At the time of speaking, Paul received a rocket alert on his phone via the app RedAlert -  an occurrence that is becoming increasingly common. 

"They don't seem to fire so many rockets towards Jerusalem but we have been close. 

"Yesterday, I heard a huge big boom. The sirens aren't in Bethlehem, we don't have bomb shelters but the Israeli community next door to us does have air sirens. 

"Sometimes you can hear it from that end," he said. 

When asked if he was concerned for his safety, Paul said: "At the moment no, but if the Palestinians within the West Bank begin to rise up and say 'we're winning' and go running to the checkpoints with their guns, which we know they have here in the West Bank, it will just depend on how everything develops.  

"As far as a Palestinian operation, it's been very successful and a humiliation for Israel.

"Now I think Israel will hit Palestinians very, very hard. At the end of the day, there's going to be many lives lost," he said. 

Despite the challenges and danger, Paul remains committed to his mission, which he believes is a divine calling.

"I was walking in Bethlehem this morning, a Palestinian guy said: 'Why don't you go home if you have the chance?' 

"I really felt 21 years ago, God called me to come to Israel. If you're called to go somewhere and support and help people on both sides, you can't run away when times get tough.

"Well, now both people are going through a difficult time, it's important for me to stay here and support both communities," he said. 

Radio station Hayah continues to broadcast.