Gaza: extent of destruction 'catastrophic'

 Following the end of Israel's three-week offensive on Gaza, the United Nations says that more than 1,300 Palestinians have been killed. There were 13 Israeli deaths. More than 4,000 buildings have been destroyed in Gaza, more than 20,000 severely damaged, leaving 50,800 Gazans homeless and 400,000 without running water.

Correspondents in Gaza City say entire neighbourhoods have been flattened and bodies are still being recovered.

The director of operations in Gaza for UNRWA the UN relief agency, John Ging, said most important now was how to get basic supplies into the territory. "We have a big recovery operation ahead of us, reconstruction - none of it will be possible of course, on any scale, until we get crossing points open," he told the BBC.

Janet Symes, from Christian Aid, said: "It is critical that all crossings into Gaza are immediately opened to deal with the devastating humanitarian disaster. The need for humanitarian assistance cannot be overstated: Gazans need immediate food, shelter and support to rebuild their shattered lives, medical assistance is needed for those who have been injured, and many will need access to hospitals outside of Gaza through the crossings.

"Humanitarian agencies must have immediate, regular and unimpeded access through the Gaza crossings for the urgent assistance required to deal with the massive scale of the crisis."

"The destruction of food supplies, vehicles, medical facilities, roads and integral infrastructure has made the provision of humanitarian assistance to those in need almost impossible. Even before the onset of the bombing on December 27 the humanitarian situation was already dire.

"The devastating violence we have witnessed in Gaza has cost the lives of over one thousand people and children have borne the brunt of the attacks," said Ms Symes.

One of the reasons for the current situation is that the international community has consistently failed to hold both parties accountable. Reports of serious violations of international humanitarian law must be investigated, she said.

"The international community must not make the mistakes of the past and should now engage with all actors involved in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to ensure a comprehensive, just and viable solution to guarantee peace and security for all involved."

'Short term solutions and returning to 'business as usual' will only lead to another escalation on a scale far greater than we have recently witnessed,' said Ms Symes.

Source: MISNA/Christian Aid

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