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Staff Member Loses Family Member in Gaza Shelling

Save the Children Staff Member Loses Family Members in Shelling of Gaza

For immediate release
16 January 2009

JERUSALEM (January 15, 2009):

Save the Children renews calls for immediate ceasefire in Gaza as violence escalates dramatically in Gaza.

Four members of a Save the Children staff member's family in Gaza were killed last night by tank shelling as they fled their home in the Sabra neighborhood in Gaza City. They had run into the street after the house next door was hit and were attempting to reach shelter.

The four - a 45-year-old cousin and his sons, ages 18 and 21, along with another cousin, age 27 - lost their lives in the attack. Both cousins leave behind a wife and children, including a 4-day-old son and a 2-year-old daughter.

A 16-year-old who was with them is in the intensive care unit at Al Shifa Hospital, in grave condition. Another cousin had emergency surgery to treat his wounds.

The staff member, Ashraf El-Aloul, was staying with his parents in the same neighborhood. They are all uninjured. The wives and small children of his two cousins also had moved into the homes of other relatives.

"Our hearts are with Ashraf and his family as they deal with this senseless loss," said Annie Foster, Save the Children's team leader for the Gaza emergency response. "Ashraf has been in Save the Children's Gaza office every day since the conflict began. He has been instrumental in the successful distribution of more than 2,000 food parcels and medical supplies. He is both a humanitarian worker and a civilian in this crisis and has paid a very heavy price."

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Save the Children is calling for an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian access to all of Gaza to ensure the protection of the civilian population, especially its children.

Today the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) compound was hit and is now burning. The agency reports that fire fighters cannot reach the site because of fighting in the streets. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society Hospital, which was already overwhelmed by the number of casualties, was also shelled.

Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Secretary General of the International Save the Children Alliance, said: "This conflict is taking place in one of the most densely populated areas of the world, where every other person is a child. The escalation in fighting over the last several days - including attacks today on organisation's like UNRWA and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society Hospital - proves that there is no safe place in Gaza. Tens of thousands of very vulnerable children and families are in mortal danger."

"Children bear the brunt of any conflict and this one is certainly no different. The children of Gaza and their families are suffering injuries, fatalities, fear and upheaval," said Charlotte. "This must stop and we must be able to provide them immediate assistance."

Save the Children also reports that it's 11 staff members and their families in Gaza are in extreme danger.

Save the Children is accepting donations which will help us meet the most critical needs of children and their families in Gaza. Please donate online www.savethechildren.org.nz or call 0800 167 168.


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