Red Cross: Israel blocked ambulances from wounded

8 January 2009

From Maan News Agency

Teams from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) discovered “shocking” scenes, including four small children next to their dead mothers, when rescue workers gained access to the Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza on Wendesday.

The Zaytoun area has been heavily shelled by the Israeli military since Saturday. Until Wednesday the Israeli military had made it impossible for medics to reach the area, ICRC said.

The ICRC, in an unusually harsh statement, is accusing the Israeli army of failing to fulfill its obligations to protect civilians in war.

When they finally gained access to the Zaytoun neighborhood, ICRC found another man alive, too weak to stand up. In all there were at least 12 corpses lying on mattresses.

In another house, the ICRC rescue teams found 15 other survivors of this attack including several wounded. In yet another house, they found an additional three corpses. Israeli soldiers posted at a military position some 80 meters away from this house ordered the rescue team to leave the area which they refused to do. There were several other positions of Israeli soldiers nearby as well as two tanks.

“This is a shocking incident,” said Pierre Wettach, the ICRC’s head of delegation for Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. “The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded. Neither did they make it possible for us or the Palestine Red Crescent to assist the wounded.”

Large earth walls erected by the Israeli army had made it impossible to bring ambulances into the neighborhood. Therefore, the children and the wounded had to be taken to the ambulances on a donkey cart. In total, the ICRC rescue team evacuated 18 wounded and 12 others who were extremely exhausted. Two corpses were also evacuated.

The ICRC was informed that there are more wounded sheltering in other destroyed houses in this neighborhood The ICRC said it would recover the remaining corpses on Thursday.