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'Humanitarian catastrope in Gaza'

An international humanitarian organistion on Wednesday appealed for an immediate truce in Gaza to allow desperately needed humanitarian assistance to the beleaguered civilian population.

world Updated: Jan 07, 2009 15:06 IST

An international humanitarian organistion on Wednesday appealed for an immediate truce in Gaza to allow desperately needed humanitarian assistance to the beleaguered civilian population, evacuation of the wounded and safe refuge for civilians wishing to flee the conflict zone.

"Civilians in Gaza are trapped in an unfolding humanitarian catastrophe, and need immediate respite," said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme. "It is abundantly clear that the parties to this conflict are failing to respect international humanitarian law, and that the civilian population of Gaza is paying a very heavy price."

Smart said in the absence of a ceasefire, an immediate humanitarian truce is urgently needed to protect the civilian population.

"The fighting must stop long enough so that humanitarian assistance can reach those in need and so that those who want to leave can be evacuated," he added.

An immediate pause in hostilities, he said, would at least make it possible for basic assistance to be got to civilians in dire need, permit the evacuation and treatment of the wounded and the burial of the dead.

"It would also allow civilians trapped in Gaza an opportunity to leave the conflict zone safely to seek refuge with the assistance of neighbouring states where necessary, allow emergency repairs to essential infrastructure, and ensure that humanitarian workers can provide protection and assistance in safety," Smart added.

Amnesty International said it has repeatedly urged Israel, Hamas, and other Palestinian armed groups to end attacks on civilians and other violations of international humanitarian law, and to allow access to humanitarian assistance.