(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Israeli aid groups call for urgent action in Gaza

A Palestinian man looks out towards destroyed Hamas government buildings following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on 30 December 2008. Earlier in the day, Israeli aircraft dropped at least 16 bombs on five Hamas government buildings in a Gaza City com
Amir Farshad Ebrahimi/Flickr

Nine Israeli human rights and aid organisations have released their findings on the situation in Gaza and called on the Israeli government to take urgent action to alleviate the dire humanitarian situation there.



At a press conference in Jerusalem on 14 January, they said Gaza’s entire population was in extreme humanitarian distress, caught in the midst of a massive Israeli land incursion and aerial bombardment.



The NGOs called the level of harm to civilians “unprecedented” and accused the Israeli armed forces of “making wanton use of lethal force which has to date caused the deaths of hundreds of uninvolved civilians and destroyed infrastructure and property on an enormous scale”.



Their findings and allegations are based on testimonies collected from residents in the Gaza Strip, including medical teams and experts.



Allegations were made of grave violations of international humanitarian law by Israeli military forces. “After the end of the hostilities, the time will come for the investigation of this matter, and accountability will be demanded of those responsible for the violations,” said a joint statement addressed to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defence Minister Ehud Barak, Chief of Staff Lt-Gen Gaby Ashkenazi, Officer in Charge Southern Command Maj-Gen Yoav Galant, and Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz. 


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Among the NGOs’ findings were six instances of the Israeli army shooting at medical teams. The army had killed 12 and injured 17 medical personnel.



Direct attacks were recorded in the European Hospital and Dura Hospital, an UNRWA (UN agency for Palestinian refugees) facility, and the Safha Al-Harazin clinic in Shuja’iya.



The attack on a school operated by UNWRA on 6 January left over 30 civilians dead, said the NGOs.



Treatment outside Gaza



According to Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), an Israeli NGO, some 850 chronic patients and hundreds more injured in the Israeli assaults need to be transferred urgently for medical treatment outside Gaza.



Only three wounded and a few dozen patients have been allowed into Israel since the Israeli attacks started on 27 December, while 250 injured have been evacuated to Egypt through the Rafah Crossing.



Professor Zvi Bentwich from PHR told IRIN: “I have no doubt that by not allowing these patients immediately into Israel for expert medical treatment we are sealing their fate. There's a need for neuro- and vascular surgery experts and these experts are not available in Gaza.” He also said several hospitals in Israel were ready to accept the wounded and treat them.



Sarit Michaeli, a spokesperson for B'tselem, told IRIN: “We still have our contacts and field workers in Gaza; we can reach [them and get] the information despite the hassle and hardship and draw the full picture.”



Palestinian families leave their hometown of Rafah, near the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt, on 8 January

Palestinian families leave their hometown of Rafah, near the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt, on 8 January...
Iyad El Baba/UNICEF-oPt
Palestinian families leave their hometown of Rafah, near the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt, on 8 January...
http://www.unicef.org/oPt/
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Israeli aid groups call for urgent action in Gaza
Palestinian families leave their hometown of Rafah, near the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt, on 8 January...


Photo: Iyad El Baba/UNICEF-oPt
Palestinian families leave their hometown of Rafah, near the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt, on 8 January

Absence of security coordination



The NGOs’ statement said electricity lines, water and sewage pumps and waste collection and treatment facilities have been damaged by the bombardments. The ongoing daily battles are preventing most repair work in the absence of security coordination with the Israeli army.



The absence of security coordination with the army is also preventing the transport of fuel and equipment. Without electricity, it is impossible to pump water and treat sewage.



More than half a million people have no access to clean water, mostly in Gaza City and in the enclave’s northern areas. Some Gaza residents have been without access to tap water for more than 10 days. The NGOs said Israel was preventing water authority technicians from accessing the Gaza City waste treatment facility.



On 11 January, senior representatives from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and UNWRA met Israeli Defence Ministry officials to improve cooperation and allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza regularly.



The Israeli army says it has allowed over 900 trucks of medical supplies and food to enter Gaza since the operation began, and that daily it enforces a three-to-four hour “humanitarian corridor”, allowing residents to get food. Aerial bombardments cease during this short period.



Despite this, the Israeli NGOs said that parts of the population in Gaza remain without access to food and medical aid due to the security situation and the briefness of the ceasefire.



Some 111 trucks were waiting at the Kerem Shalom crossing on 14 January. Most of the goods are donations from foreign countries, including Qatar, Jordan and Turkey.



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