Gaza crisis 'spiralling out of control' as ceasefire breaks down

Published 04 August 2014  |  

AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis
Palestinians watch rescuers searching for bodies and survivors under the rubble of an apartment building, destroyed by an Israeli missile strike, in Gaza City, Monday, July 21.

The crisis in Gaza is "fast spiralling out of control" despite attempts to hold temporary ceasefires, the latest of which began at 7am GMT today.

Israel declared that a seven-hour "humanitarian window" would begin today, following an attack on a UN-run school in Gaza on Sunday which killed at least 10 people.

Spokesperson for the Israeli Prime Minister, Mark Regev, told CNN that Israel hoped "to assist with the humanitarian relief" efforts by offering the short truce.

However, according to the BBC, a senior Israeli military official said the ceasefire would not apply to the town of Rafah, and added that Israeli troops would respond if they were attacked.

Reuters now reports that officials on both sides have already accused one another of breaking the agreement.

There are reports that Israel bombed a refugee camp in Gaza City today, killing an eight-year-old girl and wounding 29 others.

Israel contends at least four rockets have been fired from the Palestinian side since the ceasefire began.

This latest breakdown is another in a series of failed attempts to bring peace in the conflict-ridden region.

Aid and development charity Oxfam has now warned that "critically low" water supplies, unsanitary conditions and overcrowding means that a public health crisis is "imminent" in Gaza.

Describing conditions as "increasingly desperate," a statement from Oxfam reveals that many Gazans are being forced to survive on just three litres of safe water a day, which is dangerously less than international emergency standards.

Fears that disease will break out are increasing due to the contamination of water sources by raw sewage, and six of the nine main hospitals in Gaza have been directly hit or badly damaged, three of them subsequently being forced to close. In addition, three of the city's four main power supplies have been entirely destroyed, leaving 80 per cent of Gaza cut off.

Head of Oxfam in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, Nishant Pandey, says the sheer level of destruction is "outrageous".

"[It] is much worse than anything we have seen in previous operations and the situation is getting worse by the hour," he has warned.

"Tens of thousands of families have fled but are trapped with nowhere safe to escape, sheltering in horrific conditions and terrified to move. The international community's response to such suffering has so far been shamefully weak. Every day that this goes on is putting many more civilian lives at risk."

Oxfam has condemned the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel, but Pandey insists that "this does not justify Israel's outrageously disproportionate use of force which has killed so many civilians and destroyed so much of Gaza.

"All civilians, whether Palestinian or Israeli, have the right to live in security, but military operations that bring such levels of death and destruction will not make anyone safer in the long term," he added.

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