Four Palestinian factions join forces to defend strip Nowhere safe in Gaza, says UN official


HUMANITARIAN CRISIS:FIGHTERS FROM the four main Palestinian factions are engaged in the defence of Gaza. Muslim Hamas and Islamic Jihad paramilitaries have joined forces with secular guerrillas of the Popular Front and Fatah, although the latter is Hamas's rival.

But while the fighting has been particularly heavy over the past two days, Jaber Wishah, deputy director of the Palestinian Human Rights Centre in Gaza, said the majority of those killed and wounded were civilians.

He said that by striking Hamas-associated clinics and schools as well as mosques and government buildings, Israel was also hitting homes next to these targets.

At least 75 civilians were killed yesterday, health officials reported. Yesterday a school belonging to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was bombed. At least 30 people were killed and 55 were wounded. This was the second fatal strike in 24 hours on an UNRWA school, where people driven from their homes had taken refuge. Some 15,000 have settled in 23 schools.

The agency provided co-ordinates of all UN facilities to the Israeli military.

"There's nowhere safe in Gaza. Everyone here is terrorised and traumatised," said Irish national John Ging, UNRWA'S Gaza director, after a visit to Shifa hospital. "This is the [place] where inhumanity is visible in shocking terms . . . in the nature of the injuries, the brutality of the injuries, the scale of the injuries and human suffering."

Mr Ging blamed what was happening on "political failure and the complete absence of any accountability". "This military operation, who's accountable?" he asked. "It's the rule of the gun now and it has to stop. We need an end to the violence now."

Mr Ging dismissed Israel's claims that it was targeting only Hamas and its infrastructure.

"Look, we have over 600 dead and 2,500 injured and rising all the time . . . I am appealing to political leaders here, in Israel, in the region and the world to get their act together and stop this. They are responsible for the deaths," he said.

The 27 hospitals in the Gaza Strip have been badly affected by the Israeli campaign and are operating at 20-30 per cent capacity, World Health Organisation representative Guido Sabatinelli said. "Medical staff cannot access to hospitals, patients cannot get to hospitals and many of them need to be referred abroad for treatment."

Dr Eric Fosse, one of two Norwegian physicians who entered Gaza on Sunday, said a large number of doctors and nurses were at the Rafah crossing on the border with Egypt but were not being allowed into Gaza.