The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip has drastically deteriorated in the past few days during one of the biggest Israeli assaults on the Occupied Palestinian Territories for years. Israeli troops mounted Operation Days of Penitence on 1 October, three days after two Israeli children were killed in the Israeli settlement town of Sderot from a rocket fired from the Palestinian Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza. About 2,000 Israeli troops, with 200 tanks and armoured vehicles, have been deployed in the area. Hundreds of Palestinian homes have been demolished and acres of agricultural land destroyed, according to British media reports. Ahmed Sourani of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC), a Christian Aid-supported organisation, said: "More than 70 Palestinians, many of them children, have been killed, and hundreds left injured, from rocket attacks, machine-gun and sniper fire." Daud Asliya, a 33-year-old resident of Jabalya refugee camp told Christian Aid's partner B'Tselem: "Since the invasion began, we have been under siege and cannot leave the house. A tank is positioned 50 metres from my house and is intensively shelling all the time....We have been surviving on the water that I stored in barrels, but this has almost run out. Yesterday almost all of our food ran out. The children are panicked." B'Tselem reports that 41% of the fatalities are civilians. Living conditions are becoming increasingly desperate and electricity and water are in short supply. B'Tselem also reports that damage to the sewerage systems has caused contamination of drinking water. Ahmed Sourani said: "The Gaza Strip is separated into three parts, severely restricting the movement of goods and people. At present, access to food, drinking water and milk is proving difficult for children in northern Gaza. Land planted with citrus fruit and vegetables has been destroyed to open new roads - short cuts for the huge Israeli tanks and bulldozers. PARC is assisting communities in northern Gaza by distributing drinking water and fresh food baskets with products from poor Palestinian farmers and rural women." Mr Sourani said the attack was also hampering the registration process for Palestinians hoping to take part municipal elections set for December. "Such aggressive incursions are not only killing the people in Gaza but are also killing the only available chance for democratic change and for building democratic civil society in Palestine," he added.
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