Thursday, January 8, 2009


The number of kids in Gaza killed so far by the Israeli military. The number of wounded is 1080, and rising. The International Red Cross is not amused:

Israel today came under fierce criticism from humanitarian groups for delaying access to the injured during its offensive in Gaza as fresh fighting killed at least 11 people, taking the death toll over 700.

The unusually strong condemnation coincided with a UN announcement that it was suspending its operations in the territory in response to what it said were Israeli attacks.

The International Committee of the Red Cross accused Israel of "unacceptable" delays in letting rescue workers reach three homes in Gaza City that had been hit by shelling.

The group said the Israeli army refused rescuers permission to reach the site in the Zaytun neighbourhood for four days. Once Red Cross teams reached the area yesterday, they found four small children next to their dead mothers at one home. They were too weak to stand up on their own. One man was also found alive, too weak to stand up. In all, there were at least 12 corpses lying on mattresses.

In another house, a rescue team found 15 survivors, including several wounded. In yet another home, rescuers found three bodies. Israeli soldiers posted at a military position nearby ordered the rescue team to leave the area, which it refused to do.

"This is a shocking incident," said Pierre Wettach, the Red Cross's head for the region. "The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded. Neither did they make it possible for us or the Palestine Red Crescent to assist the wounded."

The ICRC said the children and wounded had to be taken to the ambulances on a donkey cart because Israeli forces had erected large earth walls, making it impossible to bring ambulances into the neighbourhood. The Red Cross said it brought out 18 wounded and 12 others who were extremely exhausted, as well as two bodies.

Diplomatic efforts continued yesterday, with senior Israeli officials travelling to Cairo for Egyptian-brokered talks on a proposed ceasefire, but Hamas spokesmen reiterated that they have major reservations about the plan.

Since yesterday , Israel has observed a daily, three-hour halt in operations to allow humanitarian evacuations and aid deliveries throughout Gaza, but aid groups said such lulls were insufficient to alleviate the suffering of civilians trapped by almost two weeks of fighting.

In its statement, the ICRC demanded that the Israeli military grant it and ambulances safe passage and access immediately to search for any other wounded. The ICRC has still not received confirmation from the Israeli authorities that this will be allowed.

Other groups such as Médecins Sans Frontières have also criticised Israel for blocking access to people injured during the crisis. Jessica Pourraz, a field coordinator for the group, yesterday urged Israel to respect the "humanitarian space" and allow access to those in need of medical help.

Israel has also come under strong criticism from the UN, which said it was halting all aid shipments into Gaza, citing attacks on UN staff and buildings.

The announcement came shortly after the driver of a UN truck was shot and killed by tank fire near an Israeli border as he was about to pick up an aid shipment. The UN said the delivery had been coordinated with Israel and that the vehicle carried a UN flag and insignia. Earlier this week, at least 40 people were killed when two UN schools were hit by Israeli gunfire.

Ugly doesn't even begin to describe it.

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