'No safe place for civilians' in Gaza

03:47, Jul 23 2014
Gaza crisis
Crowds gather to call for an end to the violence in Gaza on July 11, in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Gaza crisis
Protestors march from Aotea Square down Queen Street protesting the Israeli ground invasion of Gaza on July 19, in Auckland. The march concluded outside the US consulate where protestors showed their opposition to the country's economic and military links to Israel.
Gaza crisis
Lebanese and Palestinian protesters set fire to US and Israeli flags during a July 10 demonstration to denounce Israeli air strikes on the Gaza strip, in Lebanon's southern port-city of Sidon.
Gaza crisis
Demonstrators shout from the roof of a double decker bus during a protest against Israel's air strikes in Gaza in London on July 11.
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Netream Netzleam holds the body of her daughter Razel, 1, who medics said died from injuries sustained in an Israeli air strike, at her funeral in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on July 18.
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A Palestinian shepherd holding a white cloth flees her house with her herd following an Israeli ground offensive in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on July 19.
Gaza crisis
Palestinians and medics work to evacuate a man buried in sand after what police said was an Israeli air strike in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip on July 19. Hamas has said it will not cease hostilities until its demands are met, including that Israel and Egypt lift their blockade of Gaza and its 1.8 million people, and that Israel release several hundred Palestinians detained during a search last month for three Jewish teenagers later found dead.
Gaza crisis
Demonstrators stand atop one of the bronze lion monuments in Trafalgar Square as they take part in a protest against Israel's military action in Gaza, in central London on July 19. Israel has signalled it is in no hurry to achieve a truce before reaching its goal of crippling Hamas's militant infrastructure, including rocket arsenals and networks of tunnels threatening Israelis living along the Gaza frontier.
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Pro-Palestinian protesters face police during a demonstration against violence in the Gaza strip, which had been banned by police, in Paris on July 19.
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A female member of the Palestine community shouts slogans for peace in Gaza in front of a Palestine flag, during a rally in Valparaiso, northwest of Santiago.
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Palestinians, who medics said were wounded in Israeli shelling, sit at a hospital in Gaza City on July 20. There are more than 1.2 million registered Palestinian refugees in Gaza, and over half a million live in eight officially recognised refugee camps, according to UNRWA, the UN refugee agency for Palestinians. About 80 per cent of the population in the Gaza Strip is dependent on some type of international aid assistance.
Gaza crisis in photos
A Palestinian woman wearing clothes stained with the blood of other relatives, who medics said were wounded in Israeli shelling, cries at a hospital in Gaza City on what was the heaviest of the-then 13th day of fighting.
Gaza crisis in photos
A medic helps a Palestinian in the Shejaia neighbourhood, which was heavily shelled by Israel during fighting in Gaza City on July 20. That Sunday, at least 50 Palestinians were killed by Israeli shelling in the Gaza neighbourhood, where bodies were strewn in the street and thousands fled for shelter to a hospital packed with the wounded.
Gaza crisis in photos
Palestinians flee in a vehicle from Israeli shelling in Bet Lahiya, in northern Gaza Strip. Israel launched its offensive on July 8 to halt missile salvoes out of the Gaza Strip by Hamas, the dominant group in the coastal territory, which was angered by a crackdown on its supporters in the occupied West Bank and suffering economic hardship because of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade.
Gaza crisis in photos
Sharona, the mother of Israeli soldier Tsafrir Bar-Or, leans on his flag-draped coffin during his funeral in Holon near Tel Aviv on July 21.
Gaza crisis in photos
Israeli armoured personnel carriers manoeuvre outside the northern Gaza Strip ahead of Israel intensifying its land offensive.
Gaza crisis in photos
Palestinian medics tend to a boy who they said was wounded in an Israeli shelling, at a hospital, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. "A ceasefire is not near," said Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, viewed as the most dovish member the inner security cabinet. "I see no light at the end of the tunnel," she told Israel’s Army Radio.
Gaza crisis in photos
Egypt, Israel and the US back an unconditional ceasefire, to be followed by talks on a possible new border arrangement for Gaza. Israel and Egypt have severely restricted movement in and out of Gaza since Hamas seized the territory in 2007. But Hamas has rejected repeated Egyptian truce proposals.
Gaza crisis in photos
An Israeli soldier lifts a shell at a site where mobile artillery units are deployed, outside the Gaza Strip. Palestinian militants have fired more than 2000 rockets toward Israel since fighting began on July 8, but most - including several heading toward Tel Aviv - fell harmlessly into open areas or were shot out of the sky by the "Iron Dome" defence system, keeping Israeli casualties low.
Gaza crisis in photos
This photo shows the interception of a rocket by the Iron Dome anti-missile system above the Israeli town of Sderot.
Gaza crisis in photos
Palestinians evacuate a building after what witnesses said were warning Israeli air strikes next to their homes in Gaza City.
Gaza crisis in photos
Relatives of Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant Abduallah El-Buhasi, who medics said was killed in an Israeli air strike, mourn during his funeral in Deir El-Balah in the central Gaza Strip.
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Friends and relatives of Israeli soldier Tal Yifrah cry at his funeral in Rishon Lezion near Tel Aviv.
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An Israeli tank manoeuvres in a field outside the Gaza Strip.
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Protesters wave a Palestinian flag and flowers during a sit-in protest against Israel's military action in Gaza, on the Mediterranean coast at Rawshe rock in Beirut.
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Babies are placed alongside dolls and doll parts with fake blood, symbolising the death of children in Gaza, at a demonstration for Palestine in Berlin on July 22.
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Activists roll down banners displaying what they claim are the names of people that died during Israel's military action in Gaza, during a demonstration on Pigeon Rocks in Beirut.

Palestinian civilians in densely-populated Gaza have no place to hide from Israel's military offensive and children are paying the heaviest price, the United Nations said.

Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip, saying no ceasefire was near as United States and UN diplomats pursued talks on halting the fighting that has claimed more than 600 lives as the conflict entered its third week.

The overwhelming majority of people killed so far in the conflict are Palestinians, including 149 Gaza children, the UN's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Tuesday. Gaza's Health Ministry said 155 children had been killed.

At a United Nations Security Council meeting the Palestinian envoy to the UN held up photographs of children slain in Gaza and read out names of the dead as he pleaded for action from the council.

"On behalf of the Palestinian people, we ask: What is the international community doing to stop this bloodletting, to stop Israel's atrocities?" Riyad Mansour said during a debate on the Gaza crisis on Tuesday.

He showed photographs of families overcome with grief and of children's corpses, and read out the names of young victims who lost their lives. "Umama Al-Hayyeh, age 9; Dima Isleem, age 2; Mohamad Ayyad, age 2; Rahaf Abu Jumaa, age 4..."

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More than 900 Palestinian children are also reported to have been injured, according to UNICEF

Less than a quarter of all casualties are thought to be Hamas militants, charity Save the Children said.

"This is why we described the ongoing operation as a war on children," said charity official Osama Damo.

"According to an assessment by aid workers on ground at least 107,000 children need psycho-social support for the trauma they are experiencing such as death, injury or loss of their homes," Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said in Geneva.

Aid agencies point out that, unlike in other wars, Palestinians, enclosed by the security fence around Gaza, cannot flee.

"There is literally no safe place for civilians," Laerke said.

The death toll is rising in the coastal enclave which has an estimated 4500 people per square kilometre, he said. The priority for aid agencies was protecting civilians and evacuating and treating the wounded.

Nearly 500 homes have been destroyed by Israeli air strikes and 100,000 people have sought shelter in schools of the UN Relief and Works Agency where they need food, water and mattresses, he said.

"This number continues to increase by the hour,"  the agency said on Tuesday, raising its emergency funding appeal to $US115 million from $US60 million.

The agency also said a girls' school housing refugees had suffered a "direct hit from Israeli shelling" on Tuesday. It was unclear whether any casualties had been inflicted.

Israel began air strikes on the coastal strip on July 8, saying it wanted to halt missile fire out of Gaza by Hamas militants, and launched a ground offensive last Thursday.

Twenty-nine Israelis, 27 of them soldiers, have died.

Yesterday, an air strike destroyed six floors of Salam Tower in the centre of Gaza City, killing at least 11 people including Ibrahim Al-Kilani, a professor of engineering, his wife and their five children. All had fled from Shujaiya, where more than 70 people died in the biggest Israeli bombardment of the war on Sunday.

Israel says that Hamas bears responsibility for civilian deaths because it launches rockets from and stores weapons in civilian areas.

"All civilian casualties are unintended by us, but intended by Hamas," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday. "They use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause."

The World Health Organisation said that 18 health facilities in Gaza have been damaged, including three hospitals.

Hospitals in northern Gaza have been overwhelmed by high numbers of trauma cases and their inadequate supplies, it said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, guardian of the rules of war, condemned an Israeli attack on the Al-Aqsa hospital which it said had come under "direct fire at least four times".

Warring parties are obliged under international humanitarian law to protect medical personnel, ambulances and facilities, the committee said.

Reuters