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ISRAEL AND THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES/PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY: Amnesty International calls for an immediate humanitarian truce in Gaza

6 Jan 2009
Region: ISRAEL AND THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES/PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
Topic: Regional conflict
Amnesty International today urged the UN Security Council to demand thatIsrael, Hamas and Palestinian armed groups observe an immediate truce inGaza to allow desperately needed humanitarian assistance to thebeleaguered civilian population, evacuation of the wounded and safe refugefor civilians wishing to flee the conflict zone.
“Civilians in Gaza are trapped in an unfolding humanitarian catastrophe,and need immediate respite,” said Malcolm Smart, Director of AmnestyInternational’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“It is abundantly clear that the parties to this conflict are failing torespect international humanitarian law, and that the civilian populationof Gaza is paying a very heavy price.”

“Eleven days into the conflict and amid a mounting toll of civiliancasualties in Gaza, calls for a ceasefire have as yet gone unheeded byboth Israel and Hamas,” said Malcolm Smart “In the absence of a ceasefire,an immediate humanitarian truce is urgently needed to protect the civilianpopulation. The fighting must stop long enough so that humanitarianassistance can reach those in need and so that those who want to leave canbe evacuated.”

“An immediate pause in hostilities would at least make it possible forbasic assistance to be got to civilians in dire need, permit theevacuation and treatment of the wounded and the burial of the dead,” saidMalcolm Smart. “It would also allow civilians trapped in Gaza anopportunity to leave the conflict zone safely to seek refuge with theassistance of neighbouring states where necessary, allow emergency repairsto essential infrastructure, and ensure that humanitarian workers canprovide protection and assistance in safety.”

Amnesty International has repeatedly urged Israel, Hamas, and otherPalestinian armed groups to end attacks on civilians and other violationsof international humanitarian law, and to allow access to humanitarianassistance. The organization has urged the UN Security Council and theinternational community to ensure compliance with international law.

However, civilians -- particularly the 1.5 million Palestinians trapped inGaza -- continue to both be targeted and suffer disproportionately in thisconflict.

Backgound:
More than 500 Palestinians have been killed since 27 December, includingmore than 100 unarmed civilians. This includes scores of children. Over2,000 have been injured. Israeli air strikes continue to be launched in areckless manner, resulting in high civilian casualties. The use ofartillery - which is notoriously inaccurate in pinpointing its target andshould never be used in densely populated areas - is leading to furtherdeaths and injuries to civilians. The invasion by Israeli ground forcesinto Gaza (since 3 January) brings the fighting into the midst ofresidential areas. The division of Gaza by Israeli forces into threesections is further exacerbating the humanitarian situation.

Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups have been firing hundreds ofindiscriminate rockets into towns in southern Israel, in violation ofinternational humanitarian law. Three Israeli civilians have been killedin these attacks.

The Israeli ground incursion into Gaza that began on 3 January has takenthe fighting even further into the heart of residential areas, increasingthe risk for the civilian population.

Even with fighting continuing, Israel has clear obligations underinternational humanitarian law to allow humanitarian assistance forcivilians and must do so immediately. Instead, Israel has been activelyblocking essential medicine, food, fuel, and electricity in violation ofits duties as the Occupying Power.

There is a critical shortage of food, medicine and most of the necessitiesrequired to sustain life in Gaza. According to the ICRC, hospitals are nowcompletely dependent on unreliable generators that cannot be repaired dueto Israeli restrictions on the import of spare parts. The fighting hasprevented ambulance crews from responding to some emergency calls,resulting in preventable deaths.

Many water supply lines have been severed during bombardments, making itvery difficult for families in certain areas of the Gaza Strip to get holdof safe drinking water. Necessary repairs have been impeded by bombings.This lack of clean water supply is a disaster in waiting.

6 January 2009

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