The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) yesterday accused Israel of failing to assist wounded Palestinians after finding four small children next to their dead mothers in one house.
In a statement demanding urgent access, the ICRC said: ‘On the afternoon of 7 January, four Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) ambulances and the ICRC managed to obtain access for the first time to several houses in the Zaytun neighbourhood of Gaza City that had been affected by Israeli shelling.
‘The ICRC had requested safe passage for ambulances to access this neighbourhood since 3 January but it only received permission to do so from the Israel Defence Forces during the afternoon of 7 January.
‘The ICRC/PRCS team found four small children next to their dead mothers in one of the houses.
‘They were too weak to stand up on their own.
‘One man was also found alive, too weak to stand up.
‘In all, there were at least 12 corpses lying on mattresses.
‘In another house, the ICRC/PRCS rescue team found 15 other survivors of this attack including several wounded.
‘In yet another house, they found an additional three corpses.
‘Israeli soldiers posted at a military position some 80 metres away from this house ordered the rescue team to leave the area, which they refused to do.
‘There were several other positions of the Israel Defence Forces nearby, as well as two tanks.’
ICRC head of delegation for Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories Pierre Wettach said: ‘This is a shocking incident.
‘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 Palestine Red Crescent to assist the wounded.’
The ICRC statement added: ‘Large earth walls erected by the Israeli army had made it impossible to bring ambulances into the neighbourhood.
‘Therefore, the children and the wounded had to be taken to the ambulances on a donkey cart.
‘In total, the ICRC/PRCS rescue team evacuated 18 wounded and 12 others who were extremely exhausted.
‘Two corpses were also evacuated.’
The ICRC/PRCS was due to recover the remaining corpses yesterday.
It said: ‘The ICRC was informed that there are more wounded sheltering in other destroyed houses in this neighbourhood.
‘It demands that the Israeli military grant it and PRCS ambulances safe passage and access immediately to search for any other wounded.
‘Until now, the ICRC has still not received confirmation from the Israeli authorities that this will be allowed.
‘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.
‘It considers the delay in allowing rescue services access unacceptable.’
Meanwhile, the United Nations said yesterday afternoon that its aid agency UNRWA was suspending operations in Gaza because of the danger to its staff.
A UN spokesman said: ‘UnRWa decided to suspend all its operations in the Gaza Strip because of the increasing hostile actions against its premises and personnel.’
UnRWa said one person had been killed and two injured when a fork-lift truck on a UN aid mission came under Israeli tank fire at Gaza’s Erez crossing.
Witnesses said the UNRWA driver was shot near the Erez border crossing at the northern end of the Strip. A bystander was injured in the shooting.
According to Palestinian medical officials, more bodies were recovered from previous attacks yesterday, bringing the Palestinian death toll to 763 over 13 days of the Israeli offensive.
Some 3,120 have been injured.
Israeli artillery shells killed two women who were attempting to flee advancing tanks in the town of Al-Qarrara, in southern Gaza.
DEMONSTRATION GOING AHEAD
‘The march is going ahead,’ a Stop the War Coalition spokesman told News Line yesterday, referring to tomorrow’s National Demonstration: Stop the Massacre: Israel Out of Gaza.
He added: ‘The Park authorities have created a health and safety issue to ban our rally in Kensington Gardens, but the march and rally will take place.
‘There will be a stage and speeches at Hyde Park and there will a be stage at the end of the march but that will now be in the road.’
Asked if the government was behind the ban, the Stop the War spokesman said: ‘The Department of Culture: Andy Burnham put the mockers on the final rally in Kensington Gardens.
‘But the march will definitely go ahead.’
Actors, musicians and writers, among them Annie Lennox, Peter Gabriel and Nigel Kennedy, have issued a call: ‘We speak out for the people of Gaza. What is happening there is a crime against humanity.
‘We are asking everyone to be at Speaker’s Corner in London at 12.30pm on Saturday and join the march to the Israeli Embassy.’