Palestinians walk past the ruins of a mosque, which police
said was hit in an Israeli air strike, in Gaza City. Photo
Palestinian civilians in densely-populated Gaza have no
place to hide from Israel's military offensive and children are
paying the heaviest price, the United Nations says.
Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip, saying no
ceasefire was near as US and UN diplomats pursued talks on
halting fighting that has claimed more than 600 lives as the
conflict entered its third week.
"There is literally no safe place for civilians," Jens
Laerke, spokesman of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told a news briefing in Geneva.
The death toll is rising in the coastal enclave which has an
estimated 4500 people per square kilometre, he said. The
priority for aid agencies was protecting civilians and
evacuating and treating the wounded.
Nearly 500 homes have been destroyed by Israeli air strikes
and 100,000 people have sought shelter in schools of the UN
Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), where they need food, water
and mattresses, he said.
"This number continues to increase by the hour," UNRWA said
in a statement on Tuesday (local time), raising its emergency
funding appeal to $US115 million from $US60 million.
Israel began air strikes on the coastal strip on July 8,
saying it wanted to halt missile fire out of Gaza by Hamas
militants, and launched a ground offensive last Thursday.
"The ongoing ground incursion, begun 18 July, has greatly
accelerated the casualty rate over the past two days, as well
as the numbers of displaced families," the World Health
Organisation (WHO) said in a statement.
Twenty-nine Israelis, 27 of them soldiers, have died.
But the overwhelming majority of people killed so far in the
conflict are Palestinians, including 121 Gaza children under
age 18, Juliette Touma of the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF)
More than 900 Palestinian children are also reported to have
been injured, according to UNICEF.
"According to an assessment by aid workers on ground at least
107,000 children need psycho-social support for the trauma
they are experiencing such as death, injury or loss of their
homes," Laerke said.
LIMITED WATER, HOSPITALS HIT
More than 1.2 million of the 1.8 million people in the
enclave have no water or only limited access to water as
power networks have been damaged or lack fuel for generators,
"In addition, we do have reports of sewage flooding which is
a threat to public health," Laerke said.
The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed emergency
food rations and food vouchers to more than 90,000 people so
far, spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said.
"Ready to eat food stocks are running low in Gaza given the
conflict has lasted two weeks and the needs are increasing,"
Food will be bought locally and also airlifted from Dubai.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said that 18 health
facilities in Gaza have been damaged, including three
An Israeli tank shell hit the third floor of Al-Aqsa hospital
in the central Gaza Strip on Monday, killing four people and
wounding 16, the Health Ministry said.
"All patients were evacuated and the 100-bed hospital is no
longer functioning," a WHO statement said on Tuesday after a
WHO team visited the site.
Hospitals in northern Gaza have been overwhelmed by high
numbers of trauma cases and their inadequate supplies, it
The International Committee of the Red Cross, guardian of the
rules of war, condemned the attack on the Al-Aqsa hospital
which it said had come under "direct fire at least four
Warring parties are obliged under international humanitarian
law to protect medical personnel, ambulances and facilities,
the ICRC said in a statement issued late on Monday.