Monday, August 14, 2006

Palestinian deaths rise amid fear of worse to come

Last month was the deadliest in the Gaza Strip for nearly two years, a Palestinian research group said yesterday, as Israel's six-week offensive against militants in the territory led to a surge in killings.

The Palestinian Monitoring Group said 151 people were killed in the strip in July, the highest total since October 2004, when 166 people died. The majority of those killed were civilians.

"The spiralling civilian casualties caused by Israeli actions throughout the region serve to strengthen extremists, weaken peace advocates and exacerbate the conflict," said the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, commenting on the findings.

From late June, when Israel launched its offensive, until August 8, at least 170 Palestinians were killed, of whom 138 were civilians and a quarter children, the monitoring group said. Other reports have put the death toll at 200.

When the offensive was launched, Israeli warplanes bombed and partly destroyed Gaza's only power plant and also hit several bridges. The flow of fuel, food and other essential supplies was also repeatedly interrupted. The United Nations says the densely populated territory is now facing some of the worst humanitarian conditions in years.

In a report this week the UN said more than 70% of the 1.4 million population was reliant on emergency assistance to meet food needs and the price of essential goods, such as flour and sugar, had risen by between 15% and 33% this year. Waste treatment in the northern strip has reached a "critical point", threatening to flood populated areas with sewage and spread infection



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