* Over 50,000 flee violence to U.N. shelters
* UNRWA warns supplies running critically low
* Hospitals under strain as deaths and injuries rise
By Noah Browning
BEIT LAHIYA, Gaza Strip, July 19 In a school in
northern Gaza, scores of families sweat in cramped classrooms.
Babies cry, while restless kids draw on chalkboards and worried
parents give thanks for their relative safety.
They are among more than 50,000 civilians taken in by the
main United Nations agency in Gaza, UNRWA, as they flee heavy
shelling amid an Israeli ground offensive into the border areas
of the Gaza Strip.
UNRWA is now warning that its funds and supplies are running
critically low. From Sunday, it says, it will no longer be able
to provide enough mattresses for the flow of refugees, and has
launched an urgent appeal for 60 million dollars.
"The number of those fleeing continues to rise inexorably
and has more than doubled in the last 36 hours," UNRWA spokesman
Chris Gunness told Reuters.
At least 325 Palestinians, including 70 children, have been
killed in the 12-day cross-border battle between Israel and
Palestinians militants, according to Gaza officials. An Israeli
soldier and civilian have also been killed.
Israel says its attacks target militants, whom they say use
civilians as "human shields." Its ground operation aims to raze
border tunnels from which guerrillas hope to attack Israel.
Hundreds of Palestinian rockets have rained down on Israeli
cities as Israel has carried out its air and ground campaign,
pledging to put an end to the salvos and protect its people.
Israel has made calls and tapped local TV channels to
broadcast warnings to residents of border areas to escape.
"My family and I left the house with nothing but the clothes
we were wearing at two in the morning. No car was around to take
us - we walked in the total darkness and arrived here, thank
god," said Kareem Ramadan, 45, an unemployed father of three.
"Maybe we'll go back and see the house destroyed, but at
least we're alive.
Some 2,200 Palestinians have been wounded since the fighting
began. In response doctors are working 24-hour shifts every
other day and hospitals, which rely on generators for power in
the electricity-starved Strip, have heavily pared back treatment
for regular patients.
Staff at Kamal Adwan hospital don't flinch at the nearby
crashes of artillery fire - fighting has become routine in the
coastal territory of 1.8 million - but they are still sometimes
Doctor Tawfeeq Ahmed was on duty when his wife, 19-year old
daughter and 5-year old son were whisked into the hospital after
an Israeli shell landed on his house, slicing them with shrapnel
but leaving no serious injuries.
"When I left them they were just sitting in the living room.
Then they show up here, and in this condition. It was such a
shock," he said.
Elsewhere in the hospital 25-year old policeman Rashad,
stationed on duty, said the grave injuries and dead bodies
rolling in no longer had much impact on him.
"But I do get affected when I rush out with the ambulances
and I see houses of normal people in chaos, destroyed," he
added. "It makes me think, we're all victims in these wars."
While the doctors work and security staff keep a look out,
other employees scrape soapy water across the pavement in front
of its trauma ward, hoping to wipe clean the blood spatters from
the flow of victims from the Beit Lahiya area near the northern
The spots don't come out.
(Editing by Sophie Walker)