Gaza City– On February 23, 2008, three Palestinian men picnicking in a field in the northern Gaza Strip were killed Saturday by an Israeli tank missile. The Israeli military confirmed the cross-border attack near the city of Beit Hanoun but claimed it targeted Palestinian militants on their way to fire mortar shells at Israel. Israel frequently carries out missile strikes and raids against militants in the the Gaza Strip believing this will end the near-daily rocket fire, which has killed 12 Israelis in the last seven years. According to B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights group Israeli missiles have killed 137 Palestinians in Gaza last year, 28 were civilians and since January, 79 were killed by the Israeli military.
John Holmes, the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs wrapped up a five day trip to Israel and occupied Palestine on February 18, 2008. Holmes told reporters in Jerusalem of his shock by the "grim and miserable" situation in the Gaza Strip, and called for the opening of crossing points and condemned the rocket attacks on Sderot.
"The conditions in Gaza are grim and miserable and are not in accordance with the standards of human dignity…These victims here are innocent civilians. There is no time to lose in putting an end to this vicious circle of violence."
He expressed concern about the quality and availability of water and food, especially amongst children and disagreed with Israeli policy to cut back on power and fuel supplies to Gaza, calling Israel's measures "collectively penalize an entire population" and that the medical sector is "teetering on the edge of viability" and "private industry has more or less collapsed."
"Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert strongly defended the blockade. He told legislators from his Kadima Party he will not allow a humanitarian crisis to develop. But he said Gaza's residents won't be able to live a "pleasant and comfortable life" as long as southern Israel is under rocket attack. "As far as I'm concerned, Gaza residents will walk, without gas for their cars, because they have a murderous, terrorist regime that doesn't let people in southern Israel live in peace," Olmert said. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080121/ap_on_re_mi_ea/israel_palestinians