Civilians Are Paying the Price in Gaza and Southern IsraelDecember 29, 2008
As the third day of deadly airstrikes by Israeli forces in Gaza comes to a close, civilians are paying a high price. More than 1,400 Palestinians have been injured and more than 315 killed, many of whom are civilians. In addition, Hamas attacks on Southern Israel have left two civilians dead.
This is the highest level of Palestinian fatalities and casualties in four decades of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The escalation of violence comes at a time when the civilian population already faces a daily struggle for survival due to the Israeli blockade which has prevented even food and medicines from entering Gaza.
In March 2008 Amnesty International reported that more than 80% of Palestinians in Gaza rely on humanitarian assistance, with UN food aid going to about 1.1 million people – three quarters of the population. The report also stated that the number of families dependant on the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) has increased tenfold since 1999.
To make matters worse, the death toll risks rising due to the lack of adequate medical care for the injured. The already under-resourced health sector in Gaza has been further weakened by the prolonged Israeli blockade and neighboring Egypt refuses to open hospitals to injured Palestinians seeking treatment. According to the New York Times, “one doctor said that given the dearth of facilities, not much could be done for the seriously wounded, and that it was ‘better to be brought in dead.’”
Both Israeli forces and Hamas militants bear responsibility for this tragedy. Amnesty International is calling on Hamas and all other Palestinian armed groups in Gaza to stop firing indiscriminate rockets against towns and villages in southern Israel and reiterating its call for an end to reckless and unlawful Israeli attacks.