Happy New Year, unless youre in Gaza
What a miserable start to the new year. Just when you’ve sobered up and mustered all your enthusiasm to come bounding into 2009, the news gets more depressing than ever. It seems that ‘Make things worse’ has made it to the top of some people’s lists of new year’s resolutions.
It was bad enough when Joseph Kony, Ugandan warlord and indicted international criminal, entered the Congo and brought yet more brutality to a country where it was hardly in short supply. But the bombardment of Gaza takes the biscuit. Artillery shelling of one of the world’s most populous areas, where half the population are children, can only lead to massive casualties. With no mains electricity, a scarcity of food, little medical equipment and diminishing water supplies for many people, the civilian suffering is increased even further.
Most aid agencies, human rights workers and journalists have been denied access to Gaza – we’ve been trying to get in since the conflict started and have been denied access – so it’s going to be difficult to get accurate information from the region about casualties and conditions. Both the Guardian and the BBC carry reports from Palestinians writing from Gaza. Meanwhile the Times reports that White Phosphorus artillery shells have been used by the Israeli military in civilian areas, despite the appalling burns it causes when coming into contact with human skin.
There can be no justification for Palestinian armed groups firing missiles into civilian areas of southern Israel. But it is already clear that the main victims of this incursion into Gaza will be civilians – there are no ‘safe’ places for people to take shelter from the shelling. Indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks put civilian lives in grave danger and must stop immediately.
Later today Amnesty will be writing to the UN Security Council urging it to press for a resolution that ensures the safety of civilians. We’ll be lobbying the EU this week as well, and we have raised our concerns in letters to the UK Foreign Office along with our partners in the Crisis Action coalition. But until a diplomatic solution can be found, all we can do is watch yet another bloody conflict unfold.
Elsewhere on the Amnesty blogs platform, you'll also find some very lively debate on the situation here.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.