World leaders should enforce a ceasefire in Gaza to protect civilian lives and infrastructure, a group of 38 charities has said.
The agencies said the international community must apply immediate pressure on the government of Israel to keep the crossings to Gaza open to allow in supplies of essential humanitarian aid, push all parties to the conflict to end violence and uphold their obligations under international law.
Nishant Pandey, of Oxfam, said:“World leaders cannot sit by while civilian casualties in Gaza and Israel continue to mount. We urgently need to enforce a ceasefire.
“The present conflict threatens to perpetuate and worsen the humanitarian impact on Palestinian civilians in Gaza of over five years of Israeli blockade and the 2008/09 Israeli military operation Cast Lead.
“It will only deepen despair, create more insecurity, and jeopardise chances for Israelis and Palestinians to reach a just and durable peace.”
The agencies said it was critical that the protection of civilians was prioritised by the parties to the conflict as outlined by international humanitarian law.
Save the Children country director Alex Schein said: “Save the Children is deeply concerned by the recent escalation of violence in Gaza and Israel.
“Children are already among the dead and, as always, children bear the hardest burden during military conflict.
“Save the Children urges all parties to end the violence immediately.”
Save the Children said 25 schools, two clinics and a hospital have been damaged in Gaza, while schools on both sides of the border remain closed during the conflict.
As of this morning, seven children had died and 105 injured in the conflict, according to the charity, which stressed that the rapidly-changing situation meant the figures could now be higher.
Once Gaza becomes safe to enter, Save the Children teams will distribute food parcels, water and shelter materials to families, and vital medicines to hospitals.
In calling for an end to the violence, the organisations stressed the need for the international community to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1860, passed in March 2009, which outlined the conditions for a permanent ceasefire and a path to long-term security for both sides.
Carter Center field office director David Viveash said: “The failure to fully implement UN Security Council Resolution 1860 has only re-fuelled a cycle of violence that now needs to be put to a permanent end.
“The international community has an obligation to act to protect civilians and there needs to be immediate pressure on all parties to the conflict to stop the fighting and start working towards peace.”
The agencies said there were 1.6 million Palestinians in Gaza, around half of whom are children and around 50,000 of whom are elderly, still living under blockade.
The organisations said another military operation would only increase the hardship faced by the people they work with.