Immediate access to Gaza
humanitarian workers and observers essential
Amnesty International, January 2, 2009
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
"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.”
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.
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.
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
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