Medics can't reach wounded Gazans under Israeli bombing: MSF

Medecins Sans Frontieres may have to pull out if the security situation worsens, officials from group said.

Medics can't reach wounded Gazans under Israeli bombing: MSF

Medecins Sans Frontieres cannot reach sick and wounded civilians in Gaza because of Israel's bombing campaign and may have to pull out if the security situation worsens, officials from the aid group said on Friday.

Three weeks into a major offensive that has killed more than 1,100 Palestinians, Israeli forces have pushed deep into the city of Gaza despite international pressure on their government to agree a ceasefire.

Aid workers said the incessant bombing made their work impossible.

"(We ask Israel to) guarantee their access and to respect medical staff and medical structures, which is basically the Geneva Convention," MSF Secretary-General Filipe Ribeiro told Reuters after a news conference at the group's Paris office.

Under the Geneva Convention, medical staff and hospitals must be spared and the wounded must be collected and cared for.

Speaking by telephone from Gaza during the news conference, medical coordinator Cecile Barbour said the bombings continued despite Israel's pledge of a daily three-hour break in hostilities.

Some 5,100 Palestinians have been wounded in the conflict, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza. Of those killed, a Palestinian rights group said about 700 were civilians.

Israel says that Hamas fighters are using civilians as human shields. Its own losses are three civilians, killed by rocket fire, and 10 soldiers.

"Far from getting better, we have reason to believe it has gotten worse," said Christophe Fournier, president of the international council of the group, also known as Doctors Without Borders.

"The emergency services, our teams cannot access the victims," he told reporters.

Medecins Sans Frontieres' doctors used to work in major hospitals in Gaza but stopped two days ago after the al-Quds hospital was hit by Israeli forces.

With Palestinian staff and patients trapped in their houses, the group says it also had to shut four of its clinics and is now running only one post-surgical centre.

Two relief teams of surgeons, doctors and nurses are waiting for Israel to grant them safe passage so they can enter Gaza.

At the start of the hostilities on Dec. 27, Medecins Sans Frontieres was running two paediatric clinics and three post-operative clinics in the Gaza Strip. Asked if he was considering pulling out of Gaza altogether, Ribeiro said: "Yes, if the situation deteriorates, if it's too risky for our team, then yes, we can imagine leaving. As of today, not yet."

Reuters
Last Mod: 16 Ocak 2009, 16:37
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