GENEVA – The massive Hamas attack on Israel cannot justify the "limitless destruction" of the Gaza Strip, the Red Cross said Friday, as it called for pauses in the fighting.
Its statement came as Israel’s army on Friday warned residents in north Gaza to flee south ahead of an expected ground offensive.
Israel’s siege of Gaza is in response to the weekend attack by Hamas, whose gunmen launched the deadliest ever attack on Israel.
“Nothing can justify the horrific attacks Israel suffered last weekend,” said a statement from the International Committee of the Red Cross.
“Our hearts go out to people who lost family members or are worried sick about loved ones taken hostage. We reiterate our call for their immediate release and stand ready to conduct humanitarian visits,” the ICRC said.
“But those attacks cannot in turn justify the limitless destruction of Gaza.
“The parties must not neglect their legal obligations regarding the methods and means used to wage war.”
Hamas fighters broke through the militarised border barrier around the Gaza Strip last Saturday, killing more than 1,300 people in Israel. They also took an estimated 150 hostages back to the enclave.
Israel has retaliated to Hamas’s attacks by hitting targets in Gaza with thousands of strikes, which have killed more than 1,530 people.
– ‘Nowhere safe to go’ –
Israel has cut off water, food and power supplies to Gaza in a total siege it has vowed will not end until all hostages are freed.
“The instructions issued by the Israeli authorities for the population of Gaza City to immediately leave their homes, coupled with the complete siege explicitly denying them food, water, and electricity, are not compatible with international humanitarian law,” the ICRC said.
“When military powers order people to leave their homes, all possible measures must be taken to ensure the population has access to basic necessities like food and water and that members of the same family are not separated.”
The ICRC said Gazans had “nowhere safe to go” and it was “impossible” for them to know which areas “will next face attack”.
Many would not be able to leave their homes, and international law protected all civilians, including those who remain, the humanitarian organisation stressed.
“Our teams will require pauses in the fighting to work safely and effectively,” the ICRC said.
The needs in Gaza were “staggering”, it added, but with a military siege in place, humanitarian organisations “will not be able to assist such a massive displacement of people in Gaza”.