* More than 500 killed in densely-populated enclave
* 121 children among the fatalities, UNICEF says
* More than 1.2 mln in Gaza have no or little water
* Ready-to-eat food stocks running low, WFP warns
* Three hospitals among 18 damaged health facilities
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA, July 22 Palestinian civilians in
densely-populated Gaza have no place to hide from Israel's
military offensive and children are paying the heaviest price,
the United Nations said on Tuesday.
"There is literally no safe place for civilians," Jens
Laerke, spokesman of the U.N. Office for Humanitarian
Assistance (OCHA), told a news briefing in Geneva.
More than 500 people have been killed in the coastal enclave
which has an estimated 4,500 people per square kilometer, Laerke
said. The priority for aid agencies was protecting civilians and
evacuating and treating the wounded.
Nearly 500 homes have been destroyed by Israeli air strikes
and 100,000 people have sought shelter in schools of the U.N.
Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), where they need food, water and
mattresses, he said.
Israel began air strikes on the coastal strip on July 8,
saying it wanted to halt missile fire out of Gaza by Hamas
militants, and launched a ground offensive last Thursday.
Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, dashing
hopes of a pause in the fighting. Hamas rejected an Egyptian
ceasefire proposal last week.
Twenty-nine Israelis, 27 of them soldiers, have died.
But the overwhelming majority of people killed so far in the
conflict are Palestinians, including 121 Gaza children under age
18 who make up one-third of the total civilian casualties,
Juliette Touma of the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) said.
More than 900 Palestinian children are also reported to have
been injured, according to UNICEF.
"According to an assessment by aid workers on ground at
least 107,000 children need psycho-social support for the trauma
they are experiencing such as death, injury or loss of their
homes," Laerke said.
More than 1.2 million people in the enclave have no water or
only limited access to water as power networks have been damaged
or lack fuel for generators, he said.
"In addition, we do have reports of sewage flooding which is
a threat to public health," he said.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed emergency
food rations and food vouchers to more than 90,000 people so far
during the conflict, spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said.
"Ready to eat food stocks are running low in Gaza given the
conflict has lasted two weeks and the needs are increasing," she
Supplies will be bought locally and also airlifted from
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said that 18 health
facilities in Gaza have been damaged, including three hospitals.
"There are critical concerns with hospital supplies, as both
medicines and medical disposables are in serious shortage, both
in ministry of health and ngo hospitals, due to the large number
of casualties and serious shortages even before the escalation
of violence," WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Angus MacSwan)