al Jazeera – “Gazan Father Mourns Death of Baby” – 05 Jan 09 (1:27):
After ten days of Israeli attack, the water and sewage systems are “collapsing”, 89 women and 30 children are among the over 540 Palestinans dead, and more than 2,450 are wounded. As shortages for basic living needs increase and temperatures drop, Israel continues to block electricity and the Red Cross:
There are also fears that the humanitarian situation will further deteriorate as the strip, home to 1.5 million people, is suffering from acute shortages of fuel, food and medical supplies.
Iyad Nasr of the Red Cross in Gaza City said that the military operation has worsened the hardships created by the Israeli blockade over the last 18 months.
“The size of the operations and the size of the misery we are seeing here on the ground is just overwhelming,” he said.
“We are trying our best to support the infrastructure that has been depleted … and prevent the total collapse of the medical systems….
“The ICRC has to contact the Israeli authorities for each single wounded to be evacuated with an ambulance,” he said.
Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Gaza City, said that many other Gazans have fled their homes taking refuge in schools converted into temporary shelters by UN agencies.
“The United Nations says 13,000 people, over 2,000 families, have now been internally displaced because of the fighting, and that is just in the north of the strip,” he said….
Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister, has said that there is no crisis and that aid is getting through, but Christopher Gunness, the UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa) spokesman, said her denials were absurd.
“The organisation for which I work – Unrwa – has approximately 9,000 to 10,000 workers on the ground. They are speaking with the ordinary civilians in Gaza… People are suffering,” he said.
“A quarter of all those being killed now are civilians. So when I hear people say we’re doing our best to avoid civilian casualties that rings very hollow indeed.”
About 250,000 people in the northern part of Gaza are also reported to be without electricity. The main power plant has been shut down for lack of fuel due to Israel’s blockade.
The British-based Save The Children charity on Monday warned that newborn babies in the Gaza strip were at risk of hypothermia because of the power cuts and freezing winter temperatures.
“We need to deliver more food and blankets to ensure that children do not die of hunger and cold,” Dominic Nutt, a spokesman for the group, said.
“People also must be able to move freely and safely so they can provide for their families when food does become available.”
UN press conference by Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Roberty Serry – 5 Jan 09:
The protection of civilians, the fabric of Gaza, the future of the peace process and regional stability were all trapped between the irresponsibility of rocket attacks by Hamas and the excessiveness of Israel’s response, the United Nations Special Coordinator said today.…
While an immediate cessation of hostilities was absolutely vital, it was clear that new conditions must be created on the ground to prevent a repeat of the conflict, he said, emphasizing that a simple return to the status quo ante would not be enough. After a ceasefire, further arrangements must be found to solidify it. To that end, certain elements that had previously not been on the table should be discussed, including the reopening of border crossings on an uninterrupted basis. “Of course, this will require commitments from Hamas that all rocket attacks and weapons smuggling will end.” It would also require bringing Gaza back into the fold of the Palestinian Authority. The international community must now be prepared to put structures on the ground to make that happen.
Both the Security Council and the wider United Nations had an important role to play in that regard, he said. “It is now more vital than ever that Israeli-Palestinian peace is achieved. The underlying issues must be addressed: end of conflict; end of occupation; and the creation of a Palestinian State alongside a secure Israel.”…
Asked if he could agree with the term “genocide”, since the United Nations had been blaming Hamas alone for the crisis, he said the Organization was very deeply concerned and working around the clock, both at the political level and on the ground. The United Nations was clear in its position: the Secretary-General condemned the indiscriminate and irresponsible firing by Hamas of rockets into Israel, and had been clear and unequivocal about the excessive and irresponsible ongoing Israeli military attacks.
Responding to questions about fatalities and the number of civilians killed, the Special Coordinator said he did not have the latest figures, but the number was “astounding enough”. There had been far more than 300 people killed, among them a very significant number of civilians, including women and children.…
The US blocked a UN Security [sic] Council proposal for a cease-fire in an emergency meeting Saturday night.
From our YouTube playlist, “Israel Attacks Gaza” – Phyllis Bennis, fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., specializing in Middle East and United Nations issues, discusses the US coddling of Israel on Democracy Now! (transcript):
Gaza’s population density traps the civilians, giving them little options for safety. Amira Haas, reporting from Gaza for Israel’s Daily Ha’aretz, tells the story of a family laying bloody for twenty hours and two young boys killed by an Israel missle strike while building a fire to heat their homes due to the lack of electricity and gas:
Three hours after the Israel Defense Forces began their ground operation in the Gaza Strip, at about 10:30 P.M. Saturday night, a shell or missile hit the house owned by Hussein al A’aiedy and his brothers. Twenty-one people live in the isolated house, located in an agricultural area east of Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighborhood. Five of them were wounded in the strike: Two women in their eighties (his mother and aunt), his 14-year-old son, his 13-year-old niece and his 10-year-old nephew.
Twenty hours later, the wounded were still bleeding in a shed in the courtyard of the house. There was no electricity, no heat, no water. Their relatives were with them, but every time they tried to leave the courtyard to fetch water, the army shot at them.
Al A’aiedy tried to summon help on his cell phone, but Gaza’s cell phone network is collapsing. Shells have hit transponders, there is no electricity and no diesel fuel to run the generators. Every time the telephone works, it is a minor miracle.
At about noon Sunday, Al A’aiedy finally managed to reach S., who called me. There was nothing else that S., who lives nearby, could do.
I had known Al A’aiedy for eight years, and I called Physicians for Human Rights. They called the IDF’s liaison office to ask it to arrange to have the wounded evacuated. That was shortly after noon – and as of press time, the liaison office had still not called PHR back.
Meanwhile, someone else had managed to reach the Red Crescent Society. It called the Red Cross and asked it to coordinate the evacuation of the wounded with the IDF. That was at 10:30 A.M. – and as of press time Sunday night, the Red Cross had still not been able to do so.
While I was on the phone with PHR, at about noon, H. called. He just wanted to report: Two children, Ahmed Sabih and Mohammed al-Mashharawi, aged 10 and 11, had gone up on the roof of their Gaza City house to heat water over a fire. There is no electricity or gas, so fire is all that remains.…
An IDF missile hit the two boys, killing Ahmed and seriously wounding Mohammed. Later Sunday, an Internet news site reported that both had died. But H.’s cell phone was not answering, so I could not verify that report.