Gaza now in 'full-blown' humanitarian crisis
I'm a fan of disproportionate response.
'Full-blown' humanitarian crisis in Gaza
Red Cross warns 500,000 civilians in danger; Israel rejects calls for truce
msnbc.com news services
updated 8:36 a.m. ET, Tues., Jan. 6, 2009
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Gaza is now in a "full-blown" humanitarian crisis, a senior international Red Cross official said Tuesday as Israeli ground forces edged closer to major population centers.
International Committee of the Red Cross head of operations Pierre Kraehenbuehl said the situation for Palestinian civilians is "extreme and traumatic as a result of 10 days of uninterrupted fighting."
He said ICRC staff in Gaza told the neutral body Tuesday that the previous night was "the most frightening of all to date" on account of the ground offensive Israel has launched in the Palestinian territory.
Kraehenbuehl told journalists in Geneva the number of civilians killed or injured is increasing.
He said fragile power supplies could collapse at any moment leaving 500,000 people without clean water and at risk of disease.
The warning came as Israeli shells slammed into Gaza Tuesday, taking more civilian lives after Israel ignored mounting international calls for an immediate cease-fire.
'There's nowhere safe in Gaza'Palestinian medical officials said 35 Palestinian civilians were killed Tuesday, including 11 in a house that was bombed from the air, 10 on a beach hit by naval shells and three people who had taken refuge in a U.N.-run school. . .
. . ."I am appealing to political leaders here and in the region and the world to get their act together and stop this," he said, speaking at Gaza's largest hospital. "They are responsible for these deaths."
Tanks rumbled closer to the towns of Khan Younis and Dir el Balah in south and central Gaza but were still several miles outside, witnesses said, adding that the sounds of fighting could be heard from around the new Israeli positions. Israel already has encircled Gaza City, the area's biggest city.
Israel launched its offensive on Dec. 27 in a bid to halt repeated Palestinian rocket attacks on its southern towns. After a weeklong air campaign, Israeli ground forces invaded Gaza over the weekend. More than 500 Palestinians have been killed, including more than 100 civilians, according to United Nations figures. Nine Israelis have died since the operation began.
The rising civilian death toll has drawn international condemnations and raised concerns of a looming humanitarian disaster. Many Gazans are without electricity or running water, thousands have been displaced from their homes and residents say that without distribution disrupted, food supplies are running thin.
Israel says it won't stop the assault until its southern towns are freed of the threat of Palestinian rocket fire and it receives international guarantees that Hamas, a militant group backed by Iran and Syria, will not restock its weapons stockpile. It blames Hamas for the civilian casualties, saying the group intentionally seeks cover in crowded residential areas.
The army says it has dealt a harsh blow to Hamas, killing 130 militants in the past two days and greatly reducing the rocket fire. At least 15 rockets were fired Tuesday and one landed in the town of Gadera, about 25 miles from the Gaza border, lightly wounding a 3-month-old infant, police said. . .
. . .'Make-or-break issue
'Europe "wants a cease-fire as quickly as possible," Sarkozy said Monday, urging Israel to halt the offensive, while blaming Hamas for acting "irresponsibly and unpardonably." . . .
. . ."That is the make-or-break issue," Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said about ensuring an end to weapons smuggling along the Gaza-Egypt frontier.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
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