Red Cross: Gaza civilian deaths mustn't happen again

Jerusalem - The scale of civilian losses during the four-week conflict in the Gaza Strip must not happen again, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters after visiting Gaza, ICRC President Peter Maurer said he was "deeply distressed and shocked to see the impact of violence on the civilian population".

His visit came as the two sides were observing a 72-hour ceasefire due to expire at 05:00 on Friday, with Maurer calling for the truce to be extended.

Palestinian officials say 1 886 Palestinians were killed during four weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas. The United Nations has said more than 1 300 were civilians.

Israel lost 64 soldiers and three civilians, one of them a Thai agricultural worker.

Maurer indicated there may have been some violations of international humanitarian law.

"The law hasn't been accurately and ambitiously implemented in this armed conflict," he said.

"The Geneva Conventions have been designed to protect and assist people, and I cannot be satisfied ... when after four weeks of armed conflict we see the amount of destruction and the amount of victims."

But, in keeping with ICRC's strict principles of neutrality, Maurer declined to blame either side, saying each and every incident would be investigated.

The organisation would compile a confidential report and share recommendations with all sides "to ensure... this amount of victims" does not happen again, he told a news conference in Jerusalem at the end of a three-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

ICRC would also investigate the precise circumstances in which medical personnel and Palestinian Red Crescent colleagues were killed, he said.

"I'm moderately optimistic from the signs of goodwill I have encountered in all places to engage with the ICRC to make our assistance and protection more meaningful," Maurer said.

Maurer met political leaders in Gaza, Ramallah, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday called Israel's operation in Gaza "proportionate".

ICRC was determined to narrow the "enormous discrepancy" between the need and the capacity of aid organisations to protect and assist civilians in areas of conflict, Maurer said.

And it would immediately work to reestablish supplies of water, sanitation and electricity, as well as assisting the displaced and increasing medical assistance in Gaza, he said.

Hospitals in Gaza had been inundated with casualties, but they were well equipped to deal with current cases, provided the ceasefire continues, he said.

Read more on: palestine israel gaza
Clinton van Rensburg 2014/08/07 09:40:37 PM
As long as civillians are link to armed terrorists there will be casualties. People like Hamas give the nation of Islam a bad name. Islam is about peace and goodwill. The Islamic people I know and work with are very good and kind peace loving people who are very devoted to God.
Binte Maya 2014/08/07 09:59:23 PM
I really hope it never happens again either.... that there can finally be freedom and peace..
Tessa Christelis 2014/08/07 10:01:36 PM
Time for Jordan to give the Palestinians back land they were allocated by the UN in 1948 for a Palestinian country. Time for Jordan and Lebanon to allow Palestinians to live outside of the refugee camps they've been confined to for 60 years. Time for a UN resolution against Sudan. Time for a UN resolution against ISIS Time for a UN resolution against Hamas Time for a UN resolution against North Korea.
Binte Maya 2014/08/07 10:03:38 PM
Yes.. the world needs to take action in these countries who are suffering at the hands if tgeir tyrant rulers who have no value for human lives
Binte Maya 2014/08/07 10:15:08 PM
I agree Jp..!! Its really sad indeed
Mohamed Ameerodien 2014/08/07 10:50:39 PM
The solution to this is simple. Israel give palestinians back their land. I'm sure America wudnt mind Israel setting up camps in ny or LA. Since they such buddy buds.
Makhulu Zulu 2014/08/08 01:56:52 AM
You right. But there are still good jews, and I am not talking about land grabbing murderous zionists, that have and still can live side by side with muslims. But if USA wants to keep poking its dirty nose where there is oil and gas then there's always going to be problems.
Arthur Salvado 2014/08/08 07:44:48 AM
Wow Kobus !!! It's all so wrong from BOTH sides. Their actions are indefensible so trying to justify it is a futile and likely biased exercise. There will never be a solution until one or the other is obliterated from existence and unfortunately ......... it is a certain possibility