Israel Blocks Gaza Rescue Efforts: ICRC

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) accused Israel on Thursday, January 8, of blocking medical assistance to wounded Palestinians, amid shocking scenes of starving children and dead bodies in the bombed-out Gaza Strip.

"The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded," Pierre Wettach, ICRC chief for Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, said in a statement on the group’s website.

"Neither did they make it possible for us or the Palestinian Red Crescent to assist the wounded."

The ICRC accused Israeli troops of preventing ambulances from evacuating people injured in its air, land and sea bombardment of the coastal enclave, home of 1.6 million.

"We demand the Israeli military to allow the ICRC and the Palestinian Red Crescent access to bombed-out areas to recover people trapped under the rubbles," Hesham Hassan, an ICRC spokesman, told Al-Jazeera television.

More than 765 people have been killed and 3,100 wounded in nearly two weeks of Israeli attacks.

Israeli warplanes continued to pound targets across the Gaza Strip on Thursday.

One person was killed when two Israeli shells hit a UN truck near Erez crossing, said the UN agency for Palestinian Refugees UNRWA.

"Two tank shells impacted near a forklift, and one person was killed," spokesman Chris Gunness said, adding that the convoy had been coordinated with the Israeli military.

UNRWA suspended its aid operations across the Gaza Strip in protest at the Israeli attack.

"Operations will remain suspended until Israeli authorities can guarantee the safety and security of our staff."


ICRC teams reported shocking scenes in the Gaza City’s shell-battered Zeitun neighborhood.

In one house they found four starving children huddling next to the dead bodies of their mothers.

"They were too weak to stand up on their own," said the international relief organization.

"The children and the wounded had to be taken to the ambulances on a donkey cart."

ICRC rescuers also found another survivor.

"One man was also found alive, too weak to stand up. In all there were at least 12 corpses lying on mattresses."

Fifteen survivors, several of them wounded, were found in one house.

In another house, they found three corpses.

The ICRC accused Israeli soldiers of intimidating relief workers to leave the area, firing warning shots at them.

"Israeli soldiers posted at a military position some 80 meters away from this house ordered the rescue team to leave the area which they refused to do," the ICRC said.

The rescuers evacuated 18 wounded and 12 others "who were extremely exhausted," it added.

The ICRC said it was informed there are more wounded sheltering in destroyed houses in the Zeitun.

"The ICRC believes that in this instance the Israeli military failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law to care for and evacuate the wounded."

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