UN official rejects Israeli view of extent of hardship


War in Gaza:PALESTINIAN SOURCES reported yesterday at least 500 Palestinians have been killed (including 75 children and 30 women) and 2,400 wounded, the majority women and children, since Israel launched its war on Gaza on December 27th.

The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said Israeli airstrikes focused on "moving vehicles, residences, open areas, and former Israeli settlements". The American school north of Gaza city was "hit and almost completely destroyed". Three to five other schools were damaged.

While some medical supplies and blood for transfusions have entered the strip, equipment is lacking: "Intensive unit capacity in hospitals is still limited and the lack of specialist surgeons remains a problem." Distribution of rations to "the most vulnerable is erratic due to the security situation".

Since Israel's attacks commenced, the UN has been able to distribute "only a fraction" of the 1,350 metric tonnes that should have been distributed since October. The Gaza power plant, shut since December 30th, has no fuel.

Since OCHA issued its report, power supplied by an Israeli firm was cut, leaving 1.5 million people without mains electricity. Cash has not entered the strip, depriving 94,000 of urgently needed funds as well as employees of salaries.

Rejecting Israeli claims there is no humanitarian crisis, Christopher Gunness, spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), asserted, "The idea there is not a humanitarian crisis is absurd . . . it is appalling for anyone to say there is not."

UNRWA closed 20 health centres, although its staff are doing their best to aid the injured. UNRWA and the World Food Programme have suspended ration distribution, leaving 1.1 million people without basic foodstuffs. Mr Gunness criticised the Security Council for not adopting a ceasefire resolution. "Innocent people in Gaza have suffered enough."

Dr Hassan Khalaf, who heads Gaza's main hospital, said the supply of diesel for generators has been disrupted. Thirty premature babies and 27 people in intensive care could die if power is shut off.

Sanna Johnson of Save the Children said children are in great danger. "They face even more malnutrition" than before the onslaught.

"Babies are dying in homes where there is no heating and windows have been blown out by bomb blast.