Children Found Starving in
MIDEAST: Children Found Starving
By Mel Frykberg
RAMALLAH, Jan 8 (IPS) - An international chorus of condemnation has
blasted Israel over its human rights abuses in Gaza. Operation Cast
Lead, into its 12th day, has now claimed the lives of over 700
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) demanded safe
access Thursday for ICRC officials and Palestinian Red Crescent (PRC)
ambulances to evacuate the wounded. It accused Israel of deliberately
Rescue teams made several attempts to rescue the wounded and retrieve
bodies in several areas of Gaza city but were refused entry by Israel
Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers.
On Wednesday, however, after a week's intensive negotiations with
Israeli officials, ICRC officials and PRC ambulance teams managed to
reach some of the survivors in Gaza's Zeitoun neighbourhood.
The ICRC reported finding four starving toddlers next to the bodies of
their dead mothers in one of the houses. The children were apparently
too weak to stand. One man was found barely alive. Twelve bodies were
found laid out on mattresses in the same house.
Fifteen survivors were rescued from another house by the ICRC. Three
bodies were found in an adjacent house. The rescue teams kept looking
for survivors despite orders by Israeli soldiers that they leave.
"This is shocking," Pierre Wettach, the ICRC's head of
delegation for Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories told
IPS. "The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation,
but did not assist the wounded. Neither did they make it possible for
us or the PRC to assist the wounded."
The ICRC said it believed Israel had breached international
Amnesty International accused the IDF and Palestinian gunmen Wednesday
of using Palestinian civilians as human shields.
"Our sources in Gaza report that Israeli soldiers have entered
and taken up positions in a number of Palestinian homes, forcing
families to stay in a ground-floor room while they use the rest of
their house as a military base and sniper position," said Malcolm
Smart, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa programme
"This clearly increases the risk to the Palestinian families
concerned, and means they are effectively being used as human
shields," he said.
While Palestinian gunmen have also used civilian homes as bases to
attack Israeli forces, the IDF has adopted this tactic for many years.
It is standard IDF policy throughout the occupied West Bank to use
Palestinian homes as bases, while confining families to single
Israeli soldiers have been filmed forcing Palestinian youngsters to
walk in front of army jeeps or to enter a home they fear is
booby-trapped or has gunmen inside, before the soldiers follow
Amnesty International also slammed Israel's decision to establish a
daily ceasefire of only three hours, saying it was insufficient to
tackle the unfolding humanitarian crisis.
"A truce that lasts for a few hours a day is simply insufficient.
It's too short to address the urgent and massive needs of the
civilians who are caught in the hostilities and suffering heavy
casualties," said Curt Goering, Amnesty's senior deputy executive
director for the U.S.
"Israel has severely blockaded aid for nearly all of 2008. The
Israeli military can't let aid in for three hours and pretend that is
sufficient. Nor would a daily brief 'recess' guarantee the safety of
humanitarian workers," Goering noted.
Meanwhile, the UN has demanded that Israel provide evidence for its
claims that Palestinian gunmen fired on Israeli forces from a UN
school compound in northern Gaza before an Israeli artillery attack
that killed more than 40 Palestinian civilians there.
The UN has categorically denied that any armed men were in the school
at the time.
"We have nothing to hide," UN Relief and Welfare Agency
(UNRWA) spokesman Chris Gunness told CNN Wednesday. "Bring it on.
We want to see the evidence. We want to clear any
About 14,000 Palestinians have been sheltered by UNRWA schools. The UN
also stated that prior to Israel's current military incursion into
Gaza it had provided Israel with the GPS coordinates of all UN
installations in Gaza.
Several years ago Israel caused an international furore when it
accused UNRWA ambulances of transporting gunmen in its ambulances. The
IDF claimed to have satellite pictures of 'gunmen' loading 'rockets'
into the back of an ambulance.
A subsequent investigation established that the 'rocket' was a
stretcher and the 'gunmen' medics. UNRWA demanded an apology, and
never got one.
Following the outbreak in 2000 of the second Palestinian uprising, or
Intifadah, Israel accused the ICRC of transporting a suicide bomber
with an explosives belt around his waist in one of its ambulances. The
ICRC strongly denied the claim, and demanded evidence. None has been
Meanwhile, another confrontation could be brewing off Gaza's coast as
an international boat carrying humanitarian relief, human rights
activists, journalists and politicians prepared to breach Israel's
naval blockade of Gaza.
Several previous boats made the journey successfully, but during the
last attempt the boat Dignity was rammed by Israeli naval vessels and
forced at gunpoint to head to Beirut as the damaged vessel took on
Those on board included U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, and a CNN
news crew which filmed the incident.