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Agency calls for international intervention

October 13, 2004

Development agency calls for effective international intervention in Gaza

Innocent civilians are bearing the brunt of escalating violence in the Gaza Strip, according to development agency Oxfam New Zealand, which has today issued an urgent plea to the Government to act on the crisis.

“New Zealand is highly regarded internationally as a country which takes a strong and principled stand on international human rights issues,” said Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand. “We are urging the Government to persuade the international community to act now to find an external mechanism to protect civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and to halt the worsening humanitarian situation.”

Oxfam’s concern centres on the major escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip in the past fortnight, which has contributed to a sharp deterioration in the humanitarian situation. On 28 September, Israeli occupying forces launched a large-scale military operation including widespread destruction of Palestinian homes in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. The area around Jabaliya refugee camp, home to more than 100,000 refugees, has been particularly badly hit.

Since 28 September, 82 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including 24 children, according to the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Hundreds of others have been wounded. Five Israelis, including two children, have also lost their lives in the past week.

Coates: "Protecting civilians should not be a by-product of a political process but intrinsic to it. Their protection could strengthen the political process, safeguard civil society and reverse the decline in the security situation.”

“We are also very concerned that humanitarian agencies have been refused entry to Gaza since 21 September, just at a time when their presence is vital to ensure that the needs of the population can be assessed,” said Coates. “This ban must be lifted immediately”.

Oxfam condemns the Qassam rocket attacks on Sderot which killed five Israelis and acknowledges the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security, free from the threat of violence.

Oxfam also condemns the disproportionate military operation in Gaza and believes that Israel is obliged to ensure that any measures taken to protect the lives of Israeli civilians are consistent with its obligations to respect human rights and International Humanitarian Law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 33, which prohibits forcible migration and destruction of private property.

ENDS

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