CAIRO - Israel and Egypt should open their borders with Gaza to allow civilians and the wounded to flee the fighting in the territory from which there is no other escape, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.
"There is no place safe from the fighting for civilians in Gaza at this time," HRW emergencies researcher Fred Abrahams said in a statement. "It is imperative that borders not be closed to people fleeing for their lives."
HRW said that both Israel and Egypt have blocked the exit from Gaza of many severely wounded people in urgent need of medical treatment.
More than 700 Palestinians have been killed and 3,100 wounded since Israel launched its offensive on the Gaza Strip on December 27.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday that Israel had failed to help wounded Gazans in one area, charging that it had taken four days for the Israelis to authorise safe passage for an ambulance to reach wounded women and children.
Abrahams said: "For Israel and Egypt to continue blocking the evacuation of severely wounded people is not only unlawful but heartless."
Civilians wanting to flee air and artillery strikes in one of the most densely populated areas on earth -- as well as a worsening humanitarian situation -- should be allowed to do so.
"The impact of the armed conflict on the Palestinian population in Gaza has been magnified by months of an Israeli blockade that has caused severe shortages of food, water, electricity, and medicines," said Abrahams.
"It's crucial that Israel lift its unlawful blockade of basic necessities immediately."
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres made a similar call on Monday, describing the war as "the only conflict in the world in which people are not even allowed to flee."