Red Cross: Delay in Access to Gaza Wounded "Unacceptable"
The International Red Cross accused Israel on Thursday of "unacceptable" delays in letting rescue workers reach three Gaza City homes hit, where they requested safe passage for ambulances on January 3rd but were not granted permission until January 7th.
Ambulances could not get to the neighborhood because the Israeli army had erected large earthen barriers that blocked access. Israel said the delay was caused by fighting in the area and accused Hamas of using Palestinian civilians as human shields. Eventually, rescuers from the International Red Cross and Palestine Red Crescent received permission to go into the shelled houses during the halt in fighting Wednesday, four days after the buildings were hit by Israeli shells.
"This is a shocking incident," said Pierre Wettach, the ICRC's head of delegation for Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. "The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded. Neither did they make it possible for us or the Palestine Red Crescent to assist the wounded."
The ICRC normally conducts confidential negotiations with warring parties, and the statement was a rare public criticism of one party to a conflict over a specific incident. The organization said it believes "in this instance, the Israeli military failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law to care for and evacuate the wounded."
"It considers the delay in allowing rescue services access unacceptable," the Red Cross statement said.