By Alan Cowell - PARIS: The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday it had discovered "shocking" scenes — including small children next to their mothers' corpses — when its representatives gained access for the first time to parts of Gaza battered by Israeli shelling. It accused Israel of failing to meet obligations to care for the wounded in areas of combat.
In response the Israeli military did not comment directly on the allegation. In a statement, it accused Hamas, its foe in Gaza, of deliberately using "Palestinian civilians as human shields" and said the Israeli Army "works in close cooperation with international aid organizations during the fighting so that civilians can be provided with assistance."
The Israeli military "in no way intentionally targets civilians and has demonstrated its willingness to abort operations to save civilian lives and to risk injury in order to assist innocent civilians," the statement said, promising that "any serious allegation" wouldl "need to be investigated properly, once such a complaint is received formally, within the constraints of the current military operation."
In an unusually blunt criticism , the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross said it had been seeking access to shell-damaged areas in Zeitoun in the east of Gaza City since Saturday but the Israeli authorities granted permission only on Wednesday — the first day that Israel allowed a three-hour lull in the attacks on Gaza on humanitarian grounds.
The statement said a team of four Palestine Red Crescent ambulances accompanied by Red Cross representatives made its way to Zeitoun Wednesday where it "found four small children next to their dead mothers in one of the houses. They were too weak to stand up on their own. One man was also found alive, too weak to stand up. In all, there were at least 12 corpses lying on mattresses."
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