Thousands of people in Gaza were in dire need of food and medical supplies, aid agencies said on Monday, but Israel's assault has hampered relief efforts and restricted the flow of aid being sent from around the world.
Israel's sporadic air raids that have been continuous since Dec. 27 have destroyed or damaged hospitals, water supply systems, government buildings and mosques and left 1.5 million people with little to no electricity in the freezing cold.
Hospitals have been inundated with wounded Palestinians and expressed the urgent need for fresh supplies, including painkillers, anesthetics and body bags or sheets to wrap corpses, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.
Countries offer aid
A host of countries stepped up their calls for an end to the violence in the impoverished strip as they offered aid in a bid to help the 1.5 million people currently under siege.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry said it had contacted Egyptian officials to tell them it is ready to treat the wounded and asked for permission to set up a field hospital near its Rafah border with the strip.
In a letter to his Egyptian counterpart Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki expressed "Iran's readiness for receiving and treating the wounded at hospitals".
The letter also "asked for the cooperation of Egypt for setting up an Islamic Republic field hospital and its medical team on the nearest point to Gaza at the recommendation of the Egyptian government".
Meanwhile, South Korea offered $300,000 in humanitarian aid as the foreign ministry urged both Israel and Hamas to "immediately stop the use of force and actively comply with the international call for a ceasefire" there.
The emir of Qatar, the only Gulf Arab monarchy to have trade relations with Israel, accused the Jewish state of committing a "war crime" in Gaza and renewed a call for an extraordinary Arab summit.
"The Israeli aggression against our people in the Gaza Strip is a war crime…The mobilization on the Arab street and several peace movements in the world have proven that this is the least the people expect from us. I believed and still do that we can do something," Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani said late Sunday in a televised address.
"The horrors befalling the Gaza Strip oblige the (Arab) nation and its leaders to move," he added.
Jordan's Queen Rania appealed for urgent aid for those in the embattled Gaza Strip, saying that global humanity is "incomplete" when children become victims of military operations.
Speaking at a joint news conference with U.N. officials in Amman she said: "Gaza's children, the dead and the barely living, their mothers, their fathers are not acceptable collateral damage, their lives do matter and their loss does count," said the queen, herself of Palestinian origin.
With no end in sight foreign citizens called on their governments to help them leave the strip.
About 20 French nationals have asked the French consulate in Jerusalem for help to leave the Gaza Strip, the foreign ministry said Monday.
The 20 citizens and their Palestinian spouses or family members will be taken to Israel through the Erez crossing, said spokesman Eric Chevallier.
At the same time the Philippine government abandoned an attempt to evacuate 20 Filipino women married to Palestinians who refused to leave their husbands as the Israeli government was allowing only foreign citizens and their children to leave Gaza.
"Plans to have a small group of Filipinos join a Red Cross convoy today had to be abandoned due to the dangerous and dire security situation," Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos said in a text message to journalists.
Meanwhile, Egyptian authorities denied permission for Seif al-Islam, son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, to fly into el-Arish airport to reach the Rafah crossing to Gaza, the Gaddafi Foundation said late Sunday.
Seif al-Islam wanted to visit the embattled Gaza Strip via the Rafah terminal "to express his support for the Palestinian people," according to an official from the Foundation, which the leader's son heads.
He contacted the Egyptian authorities on Saturday seeking clearance to land at el-Arish but they turned him down because of "fears for his safety," the Foundation official told AFP.
Work on the ground was also perilous for medics. Three paramedics and three volunteers have been killed so far and planes have bombed the Health Care Union in Gaza City and destroyed four ambulances, Palestinian medical officials said.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said the combat had prevented ambulance staff from responding to many calls.
On Sunday, a pregnant woman in Zeitoun in northern Gaza had to be taken to hospital on a donkey cart but did not make it in time. The baby was stillborn and she suffered a ruptured uterus.
"The situation has reached a critical level for children who are exposed to and experiencing violence, fear and uncertainty," Save the Children emergency team leader Annie Foster said.
"Families must leave windows open at night so that they will not be broken by percussive shocks or flying debris from the ongoing bombardment. This means that children, the majority of them poor and malnourished, are essentially spending the night exposed to the elements," Foster said.