Red Cross slams Israel over access to wounded

The international Red Cross accuses Israeli forces today of failing to assist wounded Palestinians and of "unacceptable" delays in letting rescue workers reach a Gaza home where four small children were found alive next to their mothers' bodies.

Rescuers had been refused permission by the Israeli army to reach the site in the Zaytun neighborhood of Gaza City for days, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

The neutral aid group's head of delegation for the region described the incident as "shocking."

"The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded," Pierre Wettach said in a statement. "Neither did they make it possible for us or the Palestine Red Crescent to assist the wounded."

Rescuers eventually received permission to go to the site Wednesday, four days after it was hit by Israeli shells.

They found 15 dead and 18 wounded in three houses, including the children who were too weak to stand.

The ICRC said requests to be allowed to reach other destroyed houses in this neighborhood, reportedly containing more wounded, were refused by the Israeli army.

"The ICRC believes that in this instance the Israeli military failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law to care for and evacuate the wounded," the Geneva-based group said in a statement.

"It considers the delay in allowing rescue services access unacceptable."

A spokeswoman for the Israeli mission in Geneva said she was unable to comment on the incident at this time.

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