Monday, January 05, 2009

Civilian deaths mount in Gaza war

Al Jazera, January 5, 2008

Women and children are among the many
Palestinian casualties [AFP]

Palestinian civilians are continuing to suffer as the Israeli military pushes deeper into the Gaza Strip.

At least 540 people have been killed in the territory in the last 10 days, with more than 80 deaths reported since the Israeli ground offensive began on Saturday.

Among the dead on Monday was a family of seven from Shati refugee camp, who were killed by Israeli navy shelling.

Three siblings from one family, as well as a girl and her grandfather, also died in the Zeitoun neighbourhood of Gaza during artillery shelling.

Emergency medical services have also come under attack with the al-Awda hospital in Jabaliya being hit by two Israeli shells, foreign human rights actvists said.

“Two consecutive shells just landed in the busy car park 15 metres from the entrance to the emergency room,” Alberto Arce of the International Solidarity Movement said in a statement.

“The entrance of the emergency room was damaged. At the time of the shelling ambulances were bringing in the wounded that keep pouring in.”

Medics killed

On Sunday, an Israeli raid killed at least four paramedics as they tried to reach wounded Palestinians. Ambulances have also been hit in the attacks, Palestinian sources said.

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Israeli government officials say they are not targeting civilians, but only seeking to halt rocket fire from the Palestinian Hamas movement governing Gaza.

There are also fears that the humanitarian situation will further deteriorate as the strip, home to 1.5 million people, is suffering from acute shortages of fuel, food and medical supplies.The UN has warned that there were “critical gaps” in aid reaching Gaza, despite claims from Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister, that there was no crisis and that aid was getting through.

Christopher Gunness, the UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa) spokesman, said the idea that there was no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, was absurd.

“The organisation for which I work - Unrwa - has approximately 9,000 to 10,000 workers on the ground. They are speaking with the ordinary civilians in Gaza… People are suffering,” he said.

“A quarter of all those being killed now are civilians. So when I hear people say we’re doing our best to avoid civilian casualties that rings very hollow indeed.”

About 250,000 people in the northern part of Gaza are also reported to be without electricity. The main power plant has been shut down for lack of fuel due to Israel’s blockade.

Defiant Hamas

Despite the crisis in Gaza, Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas official, said the group was heading for “victory” against the Israeli military.

Map


Israeli positions in Gaza

He said that Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz-e-din al-Qassam Brigades, had “given the most beautiful performances during its confrontation with the army that the world thought invincible”.

Palestinian factions have continued to launch rockets into southern Israel, despite more than a week of aerial bombardment by Israel and the ground offensive.

One Israeli soldier has been confirmed killed in the Gaza assault so far, with at least 49 others wounded. Four Israelis have also been killed by Palestinian rockets.

The International Red Cross and world leaders have appealed to both Israel and Hamas to stop targeting civilians and work to restore a ceasefire.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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