'Worst yet to come,' say aid workers
Humanitarian workers in Gaza believe the “worst is yet to come” as the conflict with Israeli security forces intensified yesterday.
With the situation deteriorating rapidly, the locally-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) said people were in fear over the apparent build-up of Israeli ground forces.
Speaking to The Irish Times, PCHR founder Raji Sourani condemned the worst attacks on the region since 2009.
“In the last 24 hours since there is no safe haven in Gaza; they have bombed it day and night. It’s from sea, land and air,” he said. “There is plenty of fear in Gaza. Most of the people are staying at home. All the universities and schools are shut down.”
At the time of writing, the PCHR had put the Palestinian death toll at 15, the list of injured hovering just shy of 140, with more expected.
The timing of the latest offensive, Mr Sourani noted, coincides with Muslim New Year celebrations and the anniversary of Yasser Arafat’s 1988 declaration of a Palestinian state.“Hamas and other resistance groups are retaliating and Israel is building up its land forces,” he said
“Their military leaders have said this [potential land engagement] is not excluded. Many on the other side say this will happen; journalists and activists are saying it.”
The streets have been largely evacuated and the availability of food as well as medical and other supplies has stagnated, according to reports,
“It can be quite terrifying. You hear the F16s overhead and you hear them for quite a while. You don’t know where they are going to hit and you get a knot in your stomach thinking who is next,” said Gisela Schmidt-Martin, a PCHR worker from Cork.
As with many on the frontline, she is keen to play down the notion of “targeted” strikes by the Israel Defence Forces, saying civilians are directly in the firing line.
At the Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City she described an 11-month-old girl called Hanin who had suffered a brain injury and was attached to a ventilator.
The hospital is already critically low on medical supplies.
Fikr Shallpoot is programme manager with the London-based Medical Aid for Palestinians and is in the west of the city. She says supplies are now a growing problem.
“There is [at least] 165 drug items that are now at zero stock at the moment,” she said, explaining that blood banks are also running low.