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Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories: End unlawful attack and meet Gaza' emergency needs

Palestinian civilians remain at risk of being killed or injured in the Israeli air strikes and are increasingly lacking adequate medical care food, medicines, electricity, water and other necessities, Amnesty International said today after three days of the Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip in which more than 300 Palestinians have been killed.

“The horrific death toll risks growing due to the unavailability of adequate medical care for the hundreds of injured. The health sector in Gaza lacks equipment, medicine and expertise at the best of times and has been further depleted due to the prolonged Israeli blockade. It is now completely overwhelmed and unable to cope with the large number of casualties,” said Amnesty International.

Israel must grant the wounded access to hospitals in Israel and to Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank. The Egyptian authorities should also open Egyptian hospitals to those in need of medical care which is not available in Gaza and must ensure that its border guards do not resort to excessive use of force against those fleeing the bombing . The Hamas de-facto administration must also ensure that its security forces and militias do not, under any circumstances, hinder or prevent the passage of the wounded or others patients trying to leave Gaza.

Despite assurances from the Israeli authorities’ that humanitarian aid is being allowed into Gaza, the reality is that the quantity of humanitarian aid and supplies which has been allowed into Gaza in recent months is only a fraction of what is required.

“It is utterly unacceptable for Israel to continue to purposefully deprive 1.5 million people of food and other basic necessities. Such a policy cannot be justified on any security or other grounds and must end immediately,” said Amnesty International. “Israel must allow international humanitarian and human rights workers immediate and safe access to Gaza.”

Amnesty International reiterates its call for an end to reckless and unlawful Israeli attacks against densely populated residential areas which have killed more than 300 Palestinians since 27 December, including scores of unarmed civilians and police personnel not taking part in the hostilities, and injured several hundred others.

Amnesty International also calls once again on Hamas and all other Palestinian armed groups in Gaza to stop firing indiscriminate rockets against towns and villages in southern Israel, which have killed two Israeli civilians and injured several others in the past three days.

Following reports that an unconfirmed number of detainees, including political detainee members of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, were killed and injured in Israeli air strikes on security installations and detention centres, Amnesty International calls on Israel not to target detention facilities. Hamas should also promptly

provide information about the fate of the detainees to their families and allow families to visit them where possible.

Civilian residential homes and other buildings, including a university, have been targeted by Israeli air strikes. Compounding the atmosphere of fear resulting from the Israeli bombardments, Israeli forces have been sending seemingly random telephone messages to many inhabitants of Gaza telling them to leave their homes because of imminent air strikes against their houses. Such messages have been received by residents of multi-storey apartment building, causing panic not only for those who received the calls but for all their neighbours. Such practice was widely used by Israeli forces both in Gaza and in Lebanon in 2006, but has not been reported since. The threatening calls seem to aim to spread fear

among the civilian population, as in most cases no air strikes were carried out against the buildings. If this is the purpose, rather than to give effective warning, this practice violates international law and must end immediately.

The international community, especially the members of the Quartet (the United Nations, the European Union, Russia and the United States of America) as well as countries of the League of the Arab States, must go beyond the rhetoric and exert concrete pressure on both parties to the conflict to end the abuses of international law they are committing. The High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions should also consider holding an emergency meeting to address the situation.

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