The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

AIUSA media office, 202-544-0200

UN Security Council Must Not Fail Civilians Caught in Gaza Conflict

Amnesty International today urged the UN
Security Council to take firm and decisive action to address the
increasingly grave situation in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel.


Amnesty International today urged the UN
Security Council to take firm and decisive action to address the
increasingly grave situation in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel.

"Civilian casualties and destruction in Gaza are on an unprecedented
scale. The UN Security Council must not remain silent. The Council can
and must act and it should do so without further delay," said Malcolm
Smart, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa

There are growing concerns about the safety of the civilian populations
in the area, particularly the 1.5 million Palestinians who are trapped
in the Gaza Strip and facing a spiralling humanitarian crisis amid
continuing Israeli attacks and after many months of blockade.

"The UN Security Council has a key responsibility to help ensure
that the parties to the conflict respect international human rights and
humanitarian law," said Malcolm Smart. "It is imperative that the
Council urgently adopt a strong resolution condemning attacks against
civilians by both Israel and Hamas and demanding that such attacks
cease immediately."

Amnesty International said the UN Security Council should urge
Israel to lift restrictions on the passage of humanitarian aid into
Gaza -- medicines, food, fuel and other necessities urgently required
to alleviate civilian suffering -- and to allow humanitarian and human
rights workers and journalists unfettered access to Gaza.

"With only a few exceptions, humanitarian workers and journalists
have been barred from Gaza by the Israeli military since early
November," said Malcolm Smart. "Their presence now is urgently required
to independently assess humanitarian needs and report on the situation
on the ground, including abuses of international law."

Amnesty International also urged the UN Security Council to consider the deployment of international monitors.

"Civilians on both sides continue to pay a heavy price, which might
be alleviated if international monitors were to be deployed whose
functions should include verifying compliance with international law by
both Israel and the Palestinian administration in Gaza," said Malcolm

More than 500 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli air strikes and
other attacks since 27 December. Those killed include more than 100
unarmed civilians, including scores of children, as well as some 165
civilian police taking no part in the conflict. More than 2,000
Palestinian civilians have been injured. While many Israeli attacks
have targeted and killed Palestinian combatants, including leaders of
Hamas, other attacks have been directed at civilian buildings not being
used for military purposes. They have targeted civilians such as police
cadets, or have been disproportionate, recklessly endangering civilians
and causing a mounting toll of civilian casualties. The number of
civilian casualties is expected to increase further as a result of the
ground incursion by Israeli forces which began on 3 January and the use
of heavy weaponry in densely populated civilian areas.

In the same period, five Israelis have been killed, including three
civilians killed in rocket attacks launched by Palestinian armed groups
from the Gaza Strip.

Those killed in Israeli air strikes include:

* Eight-year-old Abed Rabbo al-Astal, his 12-year-old brother
Muhammad and their 10-year-old cousin 'Abd-al-Sattar, killed on the
afternoon of 2 January while playing near their home in al-Qarara
village, east of Khan Yunis (southern Gaza).
* Thirteen-year-old Sujud Dardsawi was fatally wounded on 2 January while in her home in the Shaja'iya district of Gaza City.
* Ihab al-Madhoun, a medical doctor, and Muhammad Abu Hasida, a
paramedic accompanying him, were killed on 31 December as they were
trying to evacuate people wounded in an earlier attack in eastern Gaza
City. The air strike also damaged their ambulance.
* A night watchman/guard was killed on 3 January when the International
School (commonly known as the American School, though it has no link to
the US government), in the north of Gaza, was destroyed by an Israeli
air strike. Known as one of the best private educational institutions
in Gaza, the school provided education to hundreds of children from
kindergarten to age 12.

As well as air strikes, Israeli forces have also used artillery -
which is notoriously inaccurate and should never be used in densely
populated areas - including from gunboats ranged along the Gaza coast.

Leaflets dropped by Israeli aircraft over Gaza have warned residents to
leave the area, although they are physically prevented from doing so,
causing panic and confusion among the population. Like the telephone
calls made by the Israeli military to Palestinians warning them to
leave their homes to escape attack, the leaflets seem to be random and
dropped all over Gaza.

One Gaza resident, a supporter of the Fatah party led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told Amnesty International:

"My children see the leaflets and go crazy with fear, they want to
leave home; but we have nowhere to go. My family and my wife's family
live close to the border, in even more dangerous areas; and we can't
just stay outside, it is equally dangerous, children have been killed
walking or playing in the street. There is no electricity, we can't
even find food, and we are not safe even in our homes. We have nothing
to do with Hamas, I've been detained and harassed by Hamas, but the
Israeli bombardments are indiscriminate. No one is safe"

The last two weeks of fighting have increased the humanitarian crisis
caused by Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, in force continuously
since June 2007. The UN and international aid agencies report that
there is an acute shortage of food and most basic necessities.
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC),
Israeli bombardments have damaged water supply lines making it
difficult for some families to obtain access to safe drinking water,
and hospitals are running short of key medicines and depend on
unreliable generators for their power. The Gaza Pediatrics' Hospital
reported that most of its windows have been smashed by the blasts and
plastic sheets are being used to block the cold. An air strike on 2
January damaged a pipe supplying water to 30,000 residents of Nuseirat
Refugee Camp, south of Gaza City. Continuous Israeli strikes also make
attempts to carry out repairs extremely dangerous.

Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.