UN warns of humanitarian crisis in Gaza

Monday, January 5, 2009

Amidst ongoing Israeli bombings of Gaza, with the death toll of the bombardments up to 537 with another 2,500 people wounded, UN food agencies again warned that the people of Gaza are facing a heavy humanitarian crisis.

"The current situation in Gaza is appalling, and many basic food items are no longer available on the market," Said Christine van Nieuwenhuyse, the World Food Program's (WFP) representative in the Palestinian territory, in a statement that was released on Friday. "This area ... is one of the poorest and most heavily affected by the recent conflict," she added.

The current situation in Gaza is appalling, and many basic food items are no longer available on the market.

—Christine van Nieuwenhuyse, WFP representative

WFP officials said that they have begun to give bread to 15,000 new recipients, a number which added to the already large group of people that had been lining up for bread after two years of Israeli blockades of Gaza, the most recent of which began in early November. The blockades, surely a catalyst for violent Hamas attacks, have been condemned by Human Rights Watch as a "violation of international humanitarian law."

Struggling Gazan hospitals say that they are completely out of even the most basic medical supplies and have little or no capacity to deal with further casualties. In addition, Israeli ground forces entered Gaza on Saturday causing an immediate spike in casualties and even attacks on the hospitals and paramedics themselves.

As sewage runs through the streets, many Gazans are trying to flee the area by storming the border with Egypt, a move which Egyptian police blocked on Sunday and are planning to do so again today as Egyptian leaders ordered their policemen to open fire on Gazans trying to flee into Egypt.

Hasan Khalaf, Gaza's assistant deputy health minister, described the ongoing assault on Gaza as "an Israeli massacre".

"There is no comparison between what we have and what [Israel] are doing to us. The international community are standing unable to help us, and yet we know they have been helping Israel for tens of years."