Israel/OPT: Immediate access to humanitarian workers and observers essential
As the number of casualties continues to mount, civilians in Gaza are in increasingly dire need of food, medical and other emergency assistance, Amnesty International said on Wednesday. International humanitarian and human rights workers, as well as journalists, have not been allowed into Gaza by the Israeli army since the beginning of November, with the exception of a few journalists who were allowed in for a couple of days earlier in December. "Humanitarian workers, journalists and human rights monitors are urgently needed to assess needs, report violations and publicise the reality of the situation on the ground," said Amnesty International. Amnesty International believes that risk to civilians is increased by artillery attacks on Gaza launched from Israeli gunboats off the coast. In the past, such artillery fire into densely populated areas has been inaccurate, causing Israel to desist from such firing after attacks caused high numbers of civilian casualties. As attacks continue, Amnesty International called on the Israeli authorities, the Hamas de-facto administration and all other Palestinian armed groups to stop all unlawful attacks. They must not target civilians and buildings not being used for military purposes, whether through air or artillery strikes or home-made rockets, and must take all precautions necessary to protect civilians from the dangers caused by military operations. Amnesty International also expressed great anxiety that a ground incursion into Gaza by Israeli forces could greatly increase civilian casualties. "Israeli forces must bear in mind that there are no ‘safe’ places in Gaza for civilians to seek shelter. They know how densely populated the Jabalia Refugee Camp is and that the homes are mostly light structures with flimsy asbestos roofs and not able to withstand the effect of strikes. Strikes are virtually sure to kill and injure civilians” said Amnesty International. "The Israeli army must not carry out attacks which pose a disproportionate risk to civilians. They must always choose means and methods of attack that are least likely to harm civilians.” "We urge all parties not to target civilians and not to carry out indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks that put civilian lives in danger.” Examples: On 27 December seven students from a school run by the United Nations were killed outside the school, just after lessons finished as they were trying to get home. The Israeli bombardment had first started at about 11.30 am on a Saturday, a day and time when the streets are very busy, particularly as children finish school just after midday, just as the initial bombardment was at its most intense. Seven students from a UNRWA school were killed outside the school just after lessons finished and they were trying to get home. On 27 December Muhammad al-Awadi finished his exam and left the al Carmel School in the Rimal district of downtown Gaza City, a school located near the al-Abbas police station in a residential district, at about 11.30 am to return to the orphanage where he lived with his brother Ahmed. He was fatally wounded when a bomb was dropped on the Police station, just as he came out of the school. Muhammad was treated in the ICU unit of Gaza City Hospital but died in the evening of 30 December. This happened at the very beginning of the bombing campaign and was totally unexpected. On 28 December five sisters from the Baalousha family aged four to 17, (Jawhir, 4; Dina, 8; Samar, 12; Ikram, 14; and Tahrir, 17) were killed in their home in Jabalia Refugee Camp, located north of Gaza city in Gaza’s most densely populated area. Four other children siblings were injured when the mosque near their home was bombed, and theirs and several other homes were destroyed and damaged. In the night of 28-29 December three bothers from the al-Absi family aged three to 14 yrs (Sedqi, 3; Ahmad, 12; and Muhammad, 14) were killed along with their mother while several other siblings were injured when their home was destroyed by a strike in a refugee camp in Rafah, south Gaza. Since the beginning of the offensive on 27 December, more than 360 Palestinians have been killed, including scores of unarmed civilians, including some 70 women and children. Some 1,700 Palestinians have also been injured. Four Israeli civilians have also been killed and scores injured as all Palestinian armed groups in Gaza, including the armed wing of the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas’ al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, have continued to launch rockets from Gaza into southern Israel.