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6 Jan, 2009 06:53

Living in hell: Gaza civilians braced for new attacks

With food, medicine and water supplies running low, the UN says the situation in Gaza amounts to a humanitarian crisis.

After almost a fortnight of air raids, bombardment and ground battles, the streets are covered with rubble and hospitals are packed with between 2,000 and 3,000 Palestinians injured.

For most Palestinians, the Israeli campaign against Hamas is simply about staying alive amid the chaos.

Gaza is one of the most densely populated spots on earth – this tiny slice of land is crammed with 1.5 million people. Even targeted strikes here bring devastation to an entire area.

“Israel's bombed everything from land and sea. They don't care if it’s a mosque or not, or whether a person is old or young. They bomb everything. There's a total blockade on us from air, sea, and land,” a young boy said.

The UN warns civilian casualties are mounting at an alarming rate. It says at least a quarter of those killed were ordinary Palestinians.

Israel insists it's not targeting civilians and accuses Hamas of using humans as shields by operating in densely populated areas.

“While acting this military operation we are trying to take all the necessary steps in order to avoid civilian casualties but unfortunately since they hide among civilians sometimes this can happen,” Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said.

Aid workers say clean water, food and medicine are running low in Gaza according to peace activist Eva Bartlett.

The UN has expressed concern about what it calls the 'humanitarian crisis' in Gaza. Yet Israel says no crisis exists.

“The world food programme has asked to stop sending food supplies because the storages inside the Gaza strip are filled with food, which Hamas is not distributing to its civilians,” said Avital Leibovich, Israeli military spokesperson

For those on the ground, the story repeats itself after every bombing. People lucky enough to survive the strikes have no other choice but to move to another location.

So far Israel has ignored international calls for a ceasefire saying it won't back down until ‘peace and tranquillity’ are achieved in southern Israeli towns. But with Hamas defiant, the havoc and death on the streets of Gaza look set to continue.