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From the field

30 Dec. '08: Protect civilians from the impact of hostilities

Since Saturday, 27 December, Israel has been bombing targets in the Gaza Strip that it claims are linked to Hamas. Since the assault began, the international media have reported 383 Palestinian casualties, more than 30 of whom are minors. Over 1,000 Palestinians have been injured.

In the past weeks, Palestinian militant organizations have fired hundreds of rockets at communities in southern Israel. 3 Israeli civilians and one member of the security forces have been killed in these attacks, and dozens injured.

The media and human rights organizations also report that the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip has reached an unprecedented level of severity. Hospitals are incapable of dealing with the sheer number of patients, and the electricity, water and sewage systems are barely functioning. In the last few days, a limited amount of humanitarian aid has been allowed into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom goods crossing.

B'Tselem and other Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations are working to gather precise information regarding the situation in the field and the circumstances under which Palestinians there have been killed or wounded. At this stage, however, the conditions in Gaza severely hamper the ability to conduct field research.

B'Tselem reiterates its demand that all parties to the hostilities prevent harm to civilians. The rules of war obligate all parties to a conflict to do their utmost to defend the civilian population. Deliberate targeting of civilians is expressly prohibited.