On the ground in Gaza, humanitarian workers are feeling increasingly frustrated and angry. Echoing the action of the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross temporarily restricted its relief efforts after one of its drivers was killed.
It comes a day after the ICRC reported finding what it called shocking scenes in Gaza, including the discovery of four emaciated children in a house: “Those people were very weak, there were children, children next to their dead mother,” said Katrina Ritz, the head of the ICRC mission in the region. “What was most shocking from our side is that the army knew that the civilians were there and they did not assist them in any way and they did not assist us even to evacuate the people,” she added. In unusually strong criticism, Israel has come under fire from humanitarian groups for delaying access to the injured during its offensive in Gaza and for injuring and killing relief workers. “The ambulance drivers, the medical staff – they’re the ones who are paying the price with their lives, to evacuate people when there are F-16s and surveillance planes and Apaches going around and shooting at people, killing civilians and terrorising the whole population,” said UN volunteer Eva Yeshewitz. In another incident, the UN claims Israeli army officers admitted that a tank firing on a UN school in Gaza on Tuesday, in which dozens of Palestinians were killed, was an error. The army has not confirmed this. Nearly 15,000 people have taken refuge in various public buildings in Gaza, including many schools. There is nowhere for the people of Gaza to go, and nowhere they really feel safe. The European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel, expressed anger at the situation: “Israel doesn’t even respect basic humanitarian international law. Not only is it not protecting the civilian population but worse even, it’s obstructing humanitarian work. Take all the people who live or survive on humanitarian aid – they represent 80 percent of the Palestinian population. They need 300 lorries of goods a day. Right now, only 50 get through. That’s an unacceptable obstruction,” said Michel. Israel has responded to the accusations by saying it is fully cooperating with the international aid agencies, and that it will investigate any complaint.