Palestine Liberation Organisation Chairman Yasser Arafat announced in Beirut, Lebanon that 500 women and children died on Saturday (24 July) when the roof on an underground shelter collapsed on them inside the Tel al-Zaatar Palestinian refugee camp which has been under siege by right-wing forces for over a month.
SV El Kallack speaking (3 shots)
A truce was declared at 3 p.m. (local time) on Friday, to allow Red Cross officials, including Mr. Hoeflinger, to pass through Christian held territory into the camp. At 4.30 p.m. commanders of the surrounding rightist forces ordered the team to leave the camp. They said the Palestinian defenders had taken advantage of the ceasefire to reoccupy positions they had earlier abandoned. As the Red Cross car sped out, the guns of the surrounding forces poured a barrage of shells into the camp.
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Background: Palestine Liberation Organisation Chairman Yasser Arafat announced in Beirut, Lebanon that 500 women and children died on Saturday (24 July) when the roof on an underground shelter collapsed on them inside the Tel al-Zaatar Palestinian refugee camp which has been under siege by right-wing forces for over a month. In Paris on Friday (23 July), PLO Information Officer Mr. el Kallack told a press conference that more than 1,000 wounded in Tel al-Zaatar were being cared for by only four doctors. There was virtually no medicine and very few medical supplies, he said.
SYNOPSIS: International Red Cross officials have been trying to negotiate between Palestinian and right-wing forces in an attempt to evacuate the wounded. Mr. el Kallack said water was available in the camp for only a few hours each night and it was dangerous to try to collect it because of sniping and shelling. More than 80 wounded have died in recent weeks through lack of blood, and many others have died because the necessary medicines were not available. He said burial of the dead was at times impossible because of the intensity of the shelling. Bodies had to be piled near the hospitals because there was no way to remove them. Health conditions for the people inside the camp were appalling, he said. The population has been living day and night in underground shelters and basements for the past 30 days.
Food is in short supply, and bread, the staple died, was being rationed to a fifth of a loaf to each person a day. Mr. el Kallack said the psychological effects, especially on women and children, of 30 days of siege and living underground, could only be imagined.In spite of the hardships, he said, the population of Tel al-Zaatar, and its defenders, who are the sons, brothers, husbands and fathers of the women, children and the elderly living n the shelters, had decided that they would fight to the death rather than surrender. Virtually while Mr. el Kallack was speaking, a Red Cross team moved under Arab League escort into rightist-held territory hoping to arrange an evacuation of the wounded. The team, headed by Jean Hoeflinger, leader of the International Red Cross delegation in Lebanon, went to the headquarters of the Falangist Party for talks with party leader Amin Gamayel. The right-wing factions were said to b e reluctant to let the wounded be evacuated from the camp, occupied by an unknown number of Palestinian fighters as well as thousands of women and children.