* Gaza faces lack of access to ambulances, health facilities
* Humanitarian corridor "needed as an urgency" - WHO
* WHO discussed corridor with Israel, Egypt, no response yet
* Red Cross condemns direct attack on Gaza hospital
(Adds details, statement by Red Cross)
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA, July 25 The World Health Organisation
(WHO) called on Friday for a humanitarian corridor to be set up
in Gaza to allow aid workers to evacuate the wounded and bring
in life-saving medicines.
Even during wartime, belligerents are obligated under
international humanitarian law to ensure that people are able to
reach medical care in safety, the WHO and Red Cross said.
Yet some sick and injured in Gaza are dying because of a
lack of access to ambulances or health facilities, or the
inability to leave the enclave for specialised treatment, the
As casualties mount daily, WHO officials have discussed the
humanitarian corridor proposal with both Israeli and Egyptian
officials, but there has been no response yet, WHO spokesman
Paul Garwood said.
"It's needed as an urgency," Garwood told a news briefing.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pressed regional proxies
to agree on a Gaza ceasefire on Friday as the death toll soared
to over 800. At least 4,500 people have been
injured, the WHO said.
In a statement, the U.N. health agency said that it was
difficult for the sick and wounded in Gaza to get access to
health care and that some needed to leave the coastal strip for
The humanitarian corridor should protect their safe
passage, the WHO said, and the transport of essential aid should
be facilitated at crossing points between the Gaza Strip and
Israel and neighbouring countries.
"DYING AT AN ALARMING RATE"
Four hospitals have been damaged since July 8 when Israel
launched air strikes on Gaza, many ambulances have come under
fire, and medical supplies are running low, the WHO said.
Al-Aqsa hospital, the main 100-bed hospital for central
Gaza, came under direct fire on Monday, killing four people and
causing severe damage to the surgical ward, intensive care unit
and to life-saving material, the WHO said.
A shipment of WHO medical supplies, enough to treat some
400-500 people, was expected to arrive from Amman, Garwood said,
noting that nearly 600 people were injured on Thursday alone.
"People are dying at an alarming rate, being injured at a
very alarming rate," Jens Laerke of the U.N. Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) told reporters.
"We are calling for these localised ceasefires whereby the
wounded can be evacuated and we can access people with both
health care and other kinds of relief," he said.
Jacques de Maio, the head of the International Committee for
the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation in Israel and the occupied
territories, said that it could not cope with the many pleas
from families when Israel's ground offensive began last week.
"In the dark violent hours of the night we could not send
ambulances or restore the water supply or treat the injured
dying of their wounds. Isolated and terrified, with nowhere to
flee and no help in sight, the anger of Palestinian families
grew," he wrote in an op-ed published in the Guardian.
The ICRC, an independent agency, condemned the "direct
shelling of al Aqsa hospital" - without explicitly blaming
Israel - and the indiscriminate rocket attacks by Palestinian
militants on Israel, both "clear breaches of international law".
"Even in the midst of warfare, people must be able to
receive medical care in safety," de Maio said.
(Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)