The Palestinian death toll in the Gaza Strip is continuing to climb with Israel keeping up its offensive on the territory for a 19th straight day, pushing deeper into densely populated areas.
Israeli troops edged closer to the heart of Gaza City on Wednesday morning.
Diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict meanwhile appeared to make little ground, although Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, arrived in Cairo on Wednesday morning to again push for a ceasefire.
As the assault against gaza entered its 19th day, the Palestinian death toll rose to 971, Gaza's Health Ministry said, many of them among those killed are women an children.
The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited the densely-populated Palestinian enclave on Tuesday and said what he saw was shocking.
"It is unacceptable to see so many wounded people. Their lives must be spared and the security of those who care for them guaranteed." ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger said.
"Injured people cannot wait for days, or even for hours, before being treated. The work of medical personnel must be respected and this is not negotiable," he said.
The United Nations childrens' rights body said the impact of Israel violence on children was devastating.
"Hundreds of children have been killed or injured, many seriously. Many others have lost their loved ones," the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child said in a statement.
Conventions on protecting children has been blatantly violated, it said, singling out the Israeli shelling of a U.N. school in a refugee camp which killed about 30 people.
The chief U.N. aid official for Gaza appealed to the international community to protect Gaza's civilians, saying nowhere in the territory of 1.5 million people was safe any longer with Israel violence becoming "a test of our humanity".
"All the people, the first thing they say to me and the last thing they say to me is 'Please, we need protection, nowhere is safe," John Ging, director of operations for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, told reporters in Geneva by videolink.
Human rights groups have reported shortages of vital supplies, including water, in the Gaza Strip. A fuel shortage has brought frequent power blackouts.
Israel's merciless war
Blocked from all sides with no means of escape, Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinians are trapped in the battlefield after Israel assault.
"Where should we go? No place is safe in this merciless war Israel is waging against us," said Umm Mohammad of Tal al-Hawa, a neighbourhood in the city of Gaza where Israeli troops attacked fighters overnight.
A few blocks away from Umm Mohammad, a Palestinian who gave his name only as Khader spent the night huddled in a room with several relatives who had fled the northern Gaza Strip hoping to find a safe refuge in Gaza's densely populated urban centres.
"They (Israeli troops) are close by. I feel as if the tank is about to run into our house. We are all in one room," Khader told Reuters by telephone to the rumble of advancing Israeli tanks.
An explosion interrupted the night-time conversation.
"I think a tank has been hit," Khader muttered. "Other tanks are approaching ... They're going crazy, firing from all directions."
With a towering Israeli wall to the east and north, the Israeli navy monitoring the coast and Egypt that does not open its border to the south, there is no hope of escape for most Gazans.
Umm Mohammad is frustrated with Israel's excessive use of force.
"The Israeli people should be ashamed of their army. Twenty tanks are fighting a group of young gunmen. And they don't want to fight them face-to-face," she said.
Israel has come under a barrage of criticism from European and Arab countries over its heavy use of fire which has killed nearly 1000 Palestinians, most of them civilians.
U.S. President George W. Bush defended Israeli violence.
Palestinians have been left to face the Middle East's mightiest army alone.
"People's spirits and their belief in a free and just world have been badly damaged.
Gazans are sure now that the world, including Arabs and Muslims, has abandoned them," said Talat Jad, 30, who also witnessed the fighting in Tal al-Hawa.
Umm Mohammad, who did not want to give her full name, said: "Maybe Hamas is partially to blame -- not for what is happening but for failing so far to tell us what they want to achieve from all this."
Last Mod: 14 Ocak 2009, 13:21