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21 hours of hell – Stop the killings in Gaza!

January 9, 2009

The newly introduced Israeli daily cessation arrangement gives the Palestinian population 3 hours a day to search for food, water and medicines and bury their dead relatives. While this is a small step in the right direction, the cessation arrangement is of course woefully inadequate, as Gaza is still hell on earth for 21 hours a day.

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According to Amnesty International UK, more than 500 Palestinians have been killed since 27 December, including more than 100 unarmed civilians and scores of children. Over 2,000 have been injured. Israeli air strikes and the use of  artillery in densely populated areas continue to claim civilian lives every day, and the Israeli invasion of Gaza (since 3 January) brings the fighting into the midst of residential areas.

From bad to worse

As the number of casualties continues to mount, civilians in Gaza are in dire need of food as well as medical and other emergency assistance. The humanitarian aid and supplies being allowed into Gaza are nowhere near sufficient to meet the needs of the civilian population of 1.5 million, more than half of whom are children. Furthermore, neither international humanitarian and human rights workers nor  journalists have been allowed into Gaza by the Israeli army since the beginning of November¹. Amnesty International has been seeking access to Gaza since the beginning of the crisis but has still not received authorization for passage into Gaza from the Israeli authorities.

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is  is becoming catastrophic as the ongoing fighting and the  Israeli blockade is leaving more and more people without access to food and water and vital services such as sanitation and medical care. The Israeli daily cessation arrangement falls far short of what is needed to provide desperately needed relief. What the Palestinian population in Gaza needs is an immediate and comprehensive humanitarian truce. All parties must halt their military operations long enoughf for humanitarian workers and NGOs to effectively bring in and distribute humanitarian aid and evacuate the wounded, and humanitarian and human rights monitors, journalists and media crews must be given access to Gaza.

Keep up the pressure!

The UN  Security Council has finally agreed on the text of a Gaza resolution , demanding an immediate truce, access for aid workers and an end to arms smuggling. However, both Israel and Hamas have dismissed the UN ceasefire call, and  innocent civilians are still being  killed in Gaza and Israel.

The Security Council’s near-unanimous² call for a truce still represents an important diplomatic punctuation mark in this crisis. The international community now has no excuse not to put strong pressure on Hamas and Israel, and governments, NGOs, political parties and citizens all over the world must now speak out and demand an immediate truce.

Do your part; call on the UK Government to take a lead and call for an immediate and comprehensive humanitarian truce!

¹With the exception of a few journalists who were allowed in for a couple of days earlier in December, and a  BBC cameraman and three Israeli journalists who were allowed to accompany an IDF unit for a few hours on 7 January.
2 According to the BBC, 14 out of 15 Security Council members backed a resolution on the Gaza crisis. USA abstained from voting after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert phoned George Bush, the Jerusalem Post reports.

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