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Agence France Presse

Palestinian Civilians 'Hostage' to Worsening Conflict: Red Cross


GENEVA - Palestinians have become a "hostage to the conflict" between militants and the Israeli armed forces and are bearing the brunt of the hostilities, the international Red Cross warned on Thursday.1213 01

"The Palestinian people are paying an exceedingly high price for the continuing hostilities between Israel and Palestinian factions," said Beatrice Megevand Roggo, head of Middle East operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)."Their situation is made even more difficult by intra-Palestinian rivalries. The Palestinian population has effectively become a hostage to the conflict," she said.

The ICRC said the situation in the Gaza Strip, which has been run by the Islamist Hamas militia since June, is "alarming," with Israel's decision to cut fuel supplies adding further hardship to the beleaguered population.

"The (Gaza) Strip has been progressively sealed off since June: imports are restricted to the bare minimum and essential infrastructure, including medical supplies and water and sanitation systems, is in an increasingly fragile state," it noted.

The ICRC said that immediate political action was needed to resolve the crisis and that humanitarian aid on its own was not sufficient.

It urged Israel to "respect its obligations under international humanitarian law, to ease restrictions on movement in the Gaza Strip and West Bank and to lift the retaliatory measures that are paralysing life in Gaza."

Israeli troops killed six militants in Gaza on Tuesday during a military incursion, with the chief of staff warning that the time was "approaching" for a major offensive in the coastal strip.

2007 Agence France Presse

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