Attacks condemned as supplies dwindle and deaths rise


DEPOSED PALESTINIAN prime minister and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh yesterday called for an immediate halt to the Israeli attack on Gaza, lifting of the siege and opening of all crossings.

"This war does not target just Hamas and the government, it is targeting Palestinians and their cause," he stated in a televised address as Gaza's death toll rose to 417.

Some 2,070 Gazans have been wounded since Israel's offensive began on Saturday. Among the latest targets were the Palestinian legislative council building and a complex housing the ministries of health, education and transport, all facilities belonging to the Palestinian National Authority and built with donations from Europe and elsewhere.

Dr Ziad Abu Amr, an independent legislator from Gaza, said he and colleagues had made fruit- less protests against the "total destruction" of Gaza but there is international "complicity" with Israel. He said these institutions will have to be rebuilt before governance can be restored.

A doctor who lives in Gaza city asserted, "We have never, never, never heard such explosions." His family survives by staying home. They eat rice and vegetables. Meat cannot be stored because there is no electricity: "I managed to get a small bag of bread because the lady [at the bakery] had promised me a few loaves."

His specialised clinic does not have equipment to treat wounded. "They all go to the [government] Shifa hospital. But it does not have the means to deal with all the casualties . . . Many doctors and nurses cannot reach the hospital because of the bombing," he said.

He planned to walk to his clinic to conduct emergency surgery, although he was uncertain whether anaesthetic was available.

Dr Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian physician who reached Gaza on Wednesday, said Gaza is a "complete man-made disaster. It's cold, there's no food, no fuel. At the main hospital [Shifa] all the windows have been blown out."

At the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, he saw two field hospitals and 30 tonnes of medical supplies waiting to enter Gaza. He said the Israelis are using outlawed fuel air bombs and depleted uranium warheads. Many bodies are shredded and burnt.

While women and children comprise 25 per cent of the fatalities, they make up 40 per cent of the wounded. "Civilians are the targets, they are the victims," said Dr Gilbert.

Although the UN yesterday opened ration distribution centres for refugees for the first time in two weeks, humanitarian co-ordinator Maxwell Gaylard warned, "Without the violence stopping, it is extremely difficult to get food to people who need it. We cannot assess where the most urgent needs are. And it is too dangerous for civilians to leave their homes to seek urgent medical treatment, buy supplies and assist people in distress."

Israel has to open goods crossings for wheat, grain and other basic foods to feed the 1.1 million civilians dependent on food aid and to allow fuel to flow.

"Gaza's hospitals are facing their largest-ever trauma caseloads . . . They must have reliable power."