Humanitarian disaster follows continued Gaza aggression

By staff writers
January 5, 2009

Over 4000 Israeli ground troops are now operating inside Gaza. 550 Palestinians and 5 Israelis have died. Many hundreds of Gazans have been injured and one million are living without electricity.

Dr Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor working for Medecins Sans Frontieres in Gaza, sent a text message which was passed to Independent Catholic News in the UK around 24 hours ago.

It read: "The grocery market has been bombed. 80 children and some pregnant women are wounded. 20 are killed. We are walking in blood, death and amputees. Body parts are everywhere. I have never seen anything like this. The tanks are coming. Please tell the world."

The Israeli authorities are continuing to spurn repeated international pleas for a ceasefire. A raft of mainly European peace negotiators are in the region, but US President Bush continues to give unconditional support to the invasion - which has extended to some 800 targets. Thirty rockets were also launched by Hamas supporters today.

Friends of Israel who disagree strongly with the military action and the harsh treatment and economic blockade of Gazans say that the action of the Israeli government is not only morally wrong but contrary to the long-term security of the Jewish state.

They argue that only a just solution involving statehood for the Palestinians, a comprehensive peace settlement and recognition of international standards of law and human rights can isolate the hardliners who are determined to continue rocket attacks - given that Hamas is an elected authority as well as a paramilitary force.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation worsens. At least 90 Gazans have been killed in the past three days, 26 of them civilians. Hospitals have been hit by bombs and half the territries ambulances have been destroyed.

Dr Khamis al-Essi, an emergency doctor at Gaza's biggest hospital, al-Shifa, said they were struggling to cope with the huge numbers of casualties.

He told the BBC that they had received "all sorts of casualties, from shattered bodies, beheaded individuals and patients with superficial cuts and lacerations".

"Most of the injuries affected civilians, especially women and children," he declared.

Among the dead was a family of seven killed by an Israeli air strike in a refugee camp east of Gaza City, health officials said.

Dr Essi said many families were in need of ambulances, but medical workers were struggling to reach casualties because they were being shot at.

Israel insists it is not targeting civilians, and accuses Hamas of using civilians as human shields by operating in densely-populated areas.

Fighting was reported around Beit Hanoun and Jabaliya on Monday 5 January 2009, and Gaza city itself - a little further south - was said to have been encircled.

The BBC's Hamada Abu Qammar in Gaza City said residents on the edges of the city were heading into the city centre seeking safe places away from the fighting.

Pope Benedict has called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to "act immediately to end the current tragic situation" in the Gaza Strip.

Speaking after the Sunday Angelus, the Pope said that he deplored the "refusal to dialogue" which has resulted in an "indescribable worsening" of conditions through ground fighting for the coastal strip's population, "once again the victims of hatred and war".

The pontiff said: "War and hatred are not solutions to problems. Today, in all the churches of the Holy Land," church leaders are "calling on worshippers to pray for the end to the conflict in the Gaza Strip and for justice and peace for their land. I join in their prayers and invite you to do the same."

The Vatican has yet to confirm that the Pope will visit Israel, possibly from 8-15 May 2009.

A further email from a Gaza orphanage:

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