Saturday, January 10, 2009

Red Cross warns of deteriorating situation in Gaza

Foreigners and Palestinians gather outside the International Red Cross

GENEVA (AFP) — The plight of Palestinians trapped in Gaza is becoming increasingly precarious as the Israeli attack on the territory enters its third week, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Saturday.

"People trapped in zones where military operations are taking place are particularly affected," it said in a statement from its Geneva headquarters.

The organisation, which has had to scale down its operations for security reasons, said it had received dozens of calls from people who were in zones which could not be reached and were experiencing increasing difficulty in maintaining contact with the outside world.

"Yesterday, we received a call from a family of 40 people, including 20 children, staying in a house in the Netzarim area. They told us they had not had drinking water for almost six days because the well supplying water to their house had been damaged," the statement quoted an ICRC employee in Gaza as saying.

The employee herself was staying at her aunt's house, together with 17 other family members who had fled insecure areas near Gaza City.

Some 800 Palestinians have died since Israel began its onslaught on December 27. Humanitarian organisations have seen their work complicated by the fighting after neither Israel nor Hamas accepted United Nations Security Council calls for a ceasefire, the ICRC said.

"We are doing our best, sparing no effort to come and rescue people when we can," said a Palestine Red Crescent Society paramedic quoted by the ICRC.

"We are ourselves frustrated that we cannot do more. Rescue operations are often aborted because of the lack of access. They are also becoming more and more dangerous, and we are getting more and more scared."

The statement added: "As it has not been possible for the past two days to bring medical supplies from the north of the Gaza Strip to health facilities such as the European, Naser and Al-Aqsa hospitals in the south, these facilities are experiencing shortages of medicine and other medical items.

"The situation in the primary health-care sector appears to be worsening. Many primary health-care centres are no longer functioning, some because they have been damaged. This has had a serious effect on those in need of regular medical follow-up."

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