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On the Ground in Gaza: University Bombed, UN Staffers Amongst the Dead

Update as of 6PM PST:

New Israeli airstrikes are going on now. CNN is broadcasting video of the attacks, Maan News Agency‘s breaking news includes reports of fires from bombs in the Western Gaza Strip and that the Intelligence and Olympics Committee buildings ahve been leveled. The Israeli news site Ynet reports that "Israeli warplanes bombed the Islamic University in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, a significant Hamas cultural symbol" and Xinhua confirms:

The residents in Remal neighborhood in western Gaza City said they heard four huge explosions that wrecked the whole area, and white and gray pillars of smoke were seen coming out of the building. Several buildings, which surround the Islamic University were badly damaged, said the residents, adding that another college run by the Islamic University in southern Gaza City was hit too. Israeli drones and F16 warplanes still hover over Gaza City. The buzz of the drones and war fighters was strongly heard shortly before the four airstrikes were carried out. The residents said that several buildings at the female campus into the Islamic University compound that include chemical labs were completely destroyed. No injuries were reported.

Meanwhile, Israeli tanks continue to mass at the borders and Time is reporting that support within Israel is very high for these attacks as demonstrated by their description of Israelis gathering on hilltops to watch and applaud the bombs.

Al Jazeera is now "United Nations officials in New York said nine of its staff had been killed in the strikes." Rammattan News (the source of CNN’s footage) is reporting:

in Gaza as the death toll climbed to 295, with hundreds of others wounded.

Palestinian medical sources reported that the 788 people have been wounded, including 200 who are in critical condition, including children and women.

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I spoke this afternoon with a representative of the International Red Cross in Jerusalem who informed me that Israel has allowed a small shipment of IV fluids into Gaza today and has said they will allow more medical supplies in tomorrow. The ICRC is hoping to transfer five ambulances from the Palestinian Red Crescent as well.

The ICRC has also reported on current conditions in Gaza:

"People in Gaza are very afraid to go into the streets, which are virtually empty. The hospitals are overwhelmed and unable to cope with the scale and type of injuries that keep coming in," said Marianne Robyn Whittington, an ICRC health delegate in Gaza.

The influx of war wounded has put a tremendous strain on Gaza’s already overburdened hospitals, which are in dire need of medical equipment. Their stocks of supplies and medicines were already severely depleted due to the difficulty in bringing medical items into the Strip in recent months.

And is reminding all parties

… that international humanitarian law requires that a clear distinction be drawn between the civilian population and civilian objects on the one side, and military objectives on the other side. In particular, the ICRC underlines the obligation of the parties to take all feasible precautions in order to spare the civilian population from the effects of hostilities. Medical facilities and personnel must also be protected.

One important way we can show our concern for the civilian casualties is to donate to the ICRC – click here and select “Israel/Occupied Territories/Autonmous Territories” under Programmes.

Along with an urgent need for medical supplies, there is also a new call from international journalists for Israel to allow them access to Gaza:

Foreign journalists in Israel are petitioning the country’s highest court to let them into Gaza to report on the heaviest fighting there in decades.

The ban has been in place for about two months, and has been lifted only occasionially during that time.

The petition was submitted Sunday by the Foreign Press Association, which represents journalists covering Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. The association’s secretary, Glenys Sugarman, says the court will hear the petition on Wednesday.

This demand by journalists is particularly important since Israel is claiming that their attacks are only targeting militant fighters, not civilians – yet there are numerous reports from Gazans and international activists that residential neighbhorhoods have been targeted and that civilian casualties are high. Yesterday, I linked to a BBC interview with Fikr Shallpoot, a health worker in Gaza. Today, we learn more of her experiences during the bombings:

My colleague in Gaza was between BBC Radio interviews early Sunday morning when a powerful blast shook her flat. Glass shards seemed to come from all directions, and for several moments of sheer panic, in the dust, smoke and debris, Fikr tried to stand and find her husband. Still shaken, fearing more attacks, they ran to their neighbour, who was screaming in terror, trying to find her four young children…

While organising for additional medical supplies, Fikr tries for over an hour to reach another colleague. Further south, Nawrez is coordinating MAP’s blood donations facility. But in the chaos, the phone networks are down. When we finally get through to Nawrez, she tells of the ongoing horror where she is. That morning, several major attacks were very near her home. One of the worst – with reports of 40 dead – was a mere 50m from her children’s school. Classes were in session at the time of the attacks, and hundreds of terrified children and frantic parents struggled to find each other.

Back in the near empty medical storage room at Al-Shifa, Fikr sees the man in charge of medical supplies faint: he had just been told that his son was killed.

As Gush Shalom, the Israel peace group said today:

The war in Gaza, the bloodshed, killing, destruction and suffering on both sides of the border, are the vicious folly of a bankrupt government. A government which let itself be dragged by adventurous officers and cheap nationalist demagoguery, dragged into a destructive and unnecessary war which will bring no solution to any problem – neither to the communities of southern Israel under the rain of missiles nor to the terrible poverty and suffering of besieged Gaza. On the day after the war the same problems will remain – with the addition of many bereaved families, wounded people crippled for life, and piles of rubble and destruction.

Sound familiar?

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Siun

Siun

Siun is a proud Old Town resident who shares her home with two cats and a Great Pyrenees. She’s worked in media relations and on the net since before the www, led the development of a corporate responsibility news service, and knows what a mult box is thanks to Nico. When not swimming in the Lake, she leads a team working on sustainability tools.

Email: media dot firedoglake at gmail dot com

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