Posted by: Lister | January 9, 2009

Gaza’s House of Horror

The opinions of the Red Cross are reported in the TimesOnline:

The International Committee of the Red Cross has accused the Israeli military of “unacceptable” conduct and breaching international humanitarian law after discovering four emaciated children living next to the corpses of their mothers and other adults in bomb-shattered houses in Gaza City.

The ICRC said that it had spent four days seeking Israeli guarantees of safe passage so that it could gain access to the houses in the badly damaged Zaytun neighbourhood of the city. It was finally allowed to send in a rescue team and four Palestine Red Crescent Society ambulances yesterday afternoon and said today that what they found was shocking.

In one house they discovered four small children, alive but too weak to stand, next to the bodies of their dead mothers. In all their were 12 dead bodies lying on mattresses.

In another house they found 15 survivors of the Israeli bombardment, several of them wounded, and in a third, three corpses. At that point they were ordered to leave by Israeli soldiers manning a post some 80 metres away, but they refused to do so.

[…] “This is a shocking incident,” Pierre Wettach, the ICRC’s head of delegation for Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, said. “The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded. Neither did they make it possible for us or the Palestine Red Crescent to assist the wounded.”

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Responses

  1. The above was a report from Thursday. On Friday, the Washington Post reported that 100 survivors had been helped from the region the Red Cross had been banned from entering:

    Emergency workers said they rescued 100 more trapped survivors Thursday and found between 40 and 50 corpses in a devastated residential block south of Gaza City that the Israeli military had kept off-limits to the International Committee of the Red Cross for four days.

    Relief agencies said they feared more people remained in the rubble of several shattered houses in the Zaytoun neighborhood. Red Cross officials said that they began receiving distress calls from people in the houses late Saturday but that they were blocked by the Israeli military from reaching the area until Wednesday.

    “There are still people under demolished houses — we are sure of it,” said Khaled Abuzaid, an ambulance driver for the Red Cross who treated survivors at the site Wednesday and Thursday. “But without water or electricity, we are sure they will die.”

    […] He said Israeli soldiers told the crew of Red Cross and Palestinian Red Crescent workers in advance that they were forbidden to take cameras, radios or cellphones to the site. It is standard practice for crews to carry such equipment on rescue missions.

    The Red Cross has accused the Israeli military of repeatedly refusing to grant permission for ambulances to go to Zaytoun, even though soldiers were stationed outside the damaged houses and were aware people were wounded inside. In a statement issued early Thursday, the agency called the episode “unacceptable” and said the Israeli military had “failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law to care for and evacuate the wounded.”

    […] The United Nations also pressed Israel to investigate the Red Cross allegations. John Holmes, chief of U.N. humanitarian aid programs, called the Zaytoun deaths “a particularly outrageous incident.” “What they found was absolutely horrifying,” he said at a news conference in New York.

    B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights group, said residents of Zaytoun who had been trapped in other houses have given similar accounts of how Israeli soldiers were aware of their plight but refused to allow rescue workers into the neighborhood. “What these family members say consistently is that the IDF was close by,” said Sarit Michaeli, a spokeswoman for the group, referring to the Israel Defense Forces. “This wasn’t some remote area. The soldiers certainly were about and were aware of their position.”

    The article goes on to report the testimony of another case, where the IDF is accused of shelling a house contianing 100 civilians it had told to stay put.


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