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End 'bloody assault' on Palestinian camps, top UN aid official tells Israel

End 'bloody assault' on Palestinian camps, top UN aid official tells Israel

Reacting to reports of death and destruction in the Middle East, the head of the United Nations agency assisting Palestinian refugees in the region has issued a strong call for the Israeli military to cease its "bloody assault" on camps in the West Bank.

"The Israeli Defence Force has made a hellish battleground among the civilians in the Balata and Jenin refugee camps," said Peter Hansen, the Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), in a statement issued in Gaza on Sunday. "We are getting reports of pure horror - that helicopters are strafing civilian residential areas; that systematic shelling by tanks has created hundreds of wounded; that bulldozers are razing refugee homes to the ground and that food and medicine will soon run out."

"In the name of human decency the Israeli military must allow our ambulances safe passage to help evacuate the wounded and deliver emergency supplies of medicines and food," Mr. Hansen stressed.

The UNRWA chief noted that Israel was a signatory to international conventions that protect non-combatants in times of conflict. "Those conventions are worthless if they are not adhered to precisely at times of the greatest blood-letting," said Mr. Hansen. "The world is watching and Israel needs to end this pitiless assault on civilian refugee camps."

The Director of UNRWA's operations in the West Bank, Richard Cook, warned that "a humanitarian disaster is in the making" there. "There has been an alarming loss of life. UNRWA must have, without delay, safe access to the camps to carry out its humanitarian mission," he said.

Bodies are piling up in the corridors of Jenin hospital, where 30 people are reported to have died in the last 36 hours, according to UNRWA, which said the operating theatre there had run out of oxygen and medicines had been nearly depleted.

The Agency said its ambulances and food trucks, which have been repeatedly refused access to the West Bank camps over the past three days, were ready to move immediately the moment that Israel guaranteed that they would not come under fire from its troops.