Call for Calm as Civilian Casualties Mount in Gaza

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PNN/Oxfam

As violence escalates across the Gaza-Israel perimeter the international aid agency Oxfam is urging both sides to show immediate restraint as a first step towards bringing safety and security to civilians caught in the crossfire.

According to Oxfam partner Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) violence between the 8-14 November 2012 claimed the lives of 8 civilians- including three Palestinian children- with at least 52 other Palestinians- including six women and 12 children- injured. Three Israeli civilians were also reported wounded from rockets fired from Gaza into Israel.

Schools in both southern Israel and eastern Gaza were closed at the start of the week as tensions kept flaring despite a ceasefire announced on Sunday.

An Israeli artillery shell hit a football playground in Al Shajaiya neighbourhood killing two children on Saturday 10 November, while a tank shelling later hit the mourners gathered at one of the children's funerals- killing another two more civilians.

Earlier on Thursday 8 November, 13-year-old Ahmed Younis Khader Abu Daqqa was killed by Israeli machine gun fire during a military incursion into the access restricted area also known as the "buffer zone." The child was reportedly playing football outside his house in Khan Younis, around 1.2 kilometres away from the incursion, when a bullet hit his abdomen.

Another strike on 11 November hit a poultry farm in Rafah, destroying it completely together with nearby houses (pictured above). Similarly, an agricultural store in Beit Lahia was completely destroyed and nearby houses heavily damaged.

The spike in violence is taking place against the backdrop of the run up to Israeli elections and increased political interest in Gaza in the wake of the Qatari Emir's visit; as well as increased press reports about another possible full scale military operation against Gaza.

Oxfam's Country Director Nishant Pandey joined a number of representatives of other INGOs and European leaders in condemning the violence, calling on the international community to put Gaza back on the agenda and work towards a just and durable solution leading to peace.

"The failure of world leaders to prioritise a solution for Gaza – still under blockade for more than five years now – creates an atmosphere where there are no consequences for violations committed by all sides, and civilians are the ones paying the highest price. Real security for people in Gaza and southern Israel comes when all parties to the conflict put people before politics and abide by their obligations under international law."

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