Pakistan calls for immediate humanitarian pause in Gaza

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan on Thursday called for an immediate end to the blockade of Gaza to allow humanitarian relief to reach Palestinians as the death toll in the besieged territory rose to more than 740.

The appeal came a day after Pakistan voted along with other UN Human Rights Council members to launch a probe into Israel's offensive in the territory, with rights chief Navi Pillay saying the Jewish state's military actions could amount to war crimes.

The 47-member council backed a Palestinian-drafted resolution by 29 votes, with Arab and fellow Muslim countries joined by China and Russia, plus Latin American and African nations. “The blockade of Gaza must be ended in order to allow access of any humanitarian assistance,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry told a press briefing.

“And that is why even in the UN Security Council and later in the UN Human Rights Council we called for humanitarian pauses,” Aizaz said. “Unless this blockade is lifted we cannot send any relief assistance,” he continued. Some 746 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched a military operation to halt rocket fire from the besieged territory on July 8.

Aizaz said that the Israeli military offensive had led to the killings in Gaza of innocent, non-combatant and unarmed Palestinians including women and children. “We have spoken clearly and unambiguously in the United Nations Security Council yesterday and call for an end to hostilities and to revive the peace talks,” he said.

He said that Pakistan was also actively working with Muslim and like-minded countries to secure humanitarian access to those who are badly wounded and stranded in the shelters. “It is important that the blockade of Gaza is ended, its borders opened and the Palestinian prisoners released,” he said.

The United Nations said on Wednesday that three quarters of those killed were civilians and one third of those were children -- the equivalent of one child killed each hour over the previous two days. Situated on the Mediterranean coast, flanking Israel and Egypt, the Gaza Strip is home to 1.7 million Palestinians who live in an area stretching just 362 square kilometres, making it one of the most densely-populated territories on the planet.

Israel began a blockade on Gaza in 2007 following the election of Hamas a year earlier and maintains it is necessary to limit Palestinian rocket attacks.

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