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Gaza death toll rises as humanitarian crisis deepens

Christian Aid's partners are reporting that Gaza's already beleaguered healthcare services are struggling to deal with the numbers of casualties as Israel's bombardment enters its third day.

Hospitals in Gaza, already desperately short of medicines, have been completely overwhelmed by the 1,000 new casualties that have been caused by Israel's assault over the last three days. Of these, 300 cases are critical.

Since 27 December more than 300 people have been killed including two Israeli civilians. Inside Gaza scores of civilians are among the casualties of the current Israeli bombardment. Israel has justified this latest round of intense violence on the continued firing of rockets into Israeli civilian areas from Gaza. 

Christian Aid unequivocally condemns these attacks. We are particularly concerned at the disproportionate response by Israel which claims to be aiming at specific targets and not at civilians. 

The population density in Gaza means that civilian casualties are highly likely - and this has been the case with many known to have been killed including 20 children.

Health system ‘near collapse’

The current Israeli attack found the health system in Gaza in a state of near collapse due to the blockade Israel has imposed upon it for the past year and a half.

Before this round of bombing the system was severely restricted, but now it must try to cope with hundreds of wounded people in need of complex care which in the current situation will be very difficult to provide. 

Dr Iaad Yaghi of Christian Aid partner Palestinian Medical Relief Societies told us this morning: ‘the hospitals in Gaza were already suffering from shortages of medicines and spare parts for their equipment.

‘They are completely unable to treat the 1,000 new casualties that have been caused by the assault. Of these, 300 cases are critical.

‘There are only 2,000 beds in the whole of the Gaza Strip and all non-emergency cases have been discharged.’

Military strikes ‘no solution’

The Middle East Quartet – which comprises of the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States – has continued to fail in making adequate progress towards improving the lives of Palestinians or improving the prospects for peace.

Despite the recent cessation of violence in Gaza, the Quartet was unable or unwilling to ensure the Israelis lifted the blockade, nor were they able to secure a significant improvement in the humanitarian situation. Eighty per cent of Gaza’s population remains wholly or partially dependent on aid.

The Rt Hon Michael Langrish, Bishop of Exeter, said this morning that: ‘Military strikes are not a solution to the terrorist action in Gaza. What is needed is political action to bring hope to the hopeless.’

Christian Aid's partners at work

Christian Aid is continuing to provide support to our partners in Gaza despite the escalating violence and widespread damage resulting from the latest air attacks.

Our partners in Gaza specialise in providing healthcare, support to children affected by the conflict, food and other relief assistance to poor families. They are in place to reach out to those affect by the air strikes.

The very least that ordinary Palestinians and Israelis deserve is a swift and robust UN Security Council resolution that demands an immediate ceasefire and unfettered humanitarian access to Gaza. Without that, peace in the Middle East will not materialise. 

Notes to Editors:

Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in more than 50 countries. We act where the need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the life they deserve.

Dr Iaad Yaghi is available for interview in Gaza.

William Bell, Christian Aid’s specialist in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and Janet Symes, Christian Aid’s Middle East region director, are also available for interview.