Thu, January 15, 2009
World > Middle East > Israeli assault on Gaza

Gaza humanitarian situation 'shocking'

2009-01-15 02:36:32 GMT2009-01-15 10:36:32 (Beijing Time)  China Daily

Belgian medics help injured Palestinian children out of a plane at Melsbroek airport, near Brussels, January 14, 2009, before bringing them to hospitals. [Agencies]

JERUSALEM -- The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is "shocking", the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross said after a visit to a hospital in the embattled territory.

"I saw this dramatic humanitarian situation. There's an increasing number of women and children being wounded and going to hospitals," Jakob Kellenberger told reporters in Jerusalem.

"It is shocking. It hurts when you see these wounded people and the types of wounds they have. And I think that in addition the number of people coming to these hospitals is increasing," he said.

The Red Cross president called for improved access for ambulances inside Gaza seeking to recover the wounded and to rescue civilians sheltering from the fighting, saying Israel's daily three-hour pause in operations is "not sufficient."

"It is a positive step that you have a three-hour stop in the fighting, for doing humanitarian work, but it is not sufficient," he said.

"Civilians who are being wounded, who are being trapped with problems of hunger, without water, you must be able to say that you can reach them."

Kellenberger -- who also visited the Israeli border town of Sderot, which has been hit by hundreds of Palestinian rockets since the war began -- urged both sides in the conflict to differentiate between militants and civilians.

He said medical supplies are holding up in Gaza, where over 1,000 people have been killed in heavy fighting and aerial bombardments since the December 27 launch of the largest-ever Israeli offensive on the territory.

"In general (medics) did not complain about the lack of equipment or materials," he said. "In fact there are a lot of goods coming in" although Israel has sealed Gaza off from all but humanitarian aid since the Hamas movement seized power in June 2007.

Kellenberger said he had seen "no evidence" of anyone wounded by phosphorous bombs, a weapon designed to deploy a smoke screen on the battlefield that Israel has been accused of using in civilian areas.


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