Some of those stranded travelled abroad for medical treatment

Israeli human rights activists have taken up the cause of handicapped children from Gaza stranded at the border between Egypt and the strip.

The Israeli army says that it has closed the border for the last three weeks for security reasons.

Hundreds of travellers have been living for days in grim conditions in a transit terminal building in Egypt.

The Israeli organisation is demanding that the army allow the children to cross to their homes in Gaza.

Cramped conditions

"The conditions are terrible," a spokesman for Physicians for Human Rights-Israel told BBC News Online.

"They are sleeping on the floor in the waiting area of one of the terminals and are a limited number of restrooms," Shabtai Gold said.

"Since the border was closed, hundreds have had to be treated for diarrhoea and vomiting," he added.

The 11 children were on their way home from a summer camp in Italy when the border shut.

Like those around them, they do not have the money to go to hotels, they have no choice but to wait in the terminal in the hope that the Israelis will reopen the frontier.

So far they have waited 11 days.

Some of those waiting for the border to reopen have endured this hardship and squalor for about 19 days.

Many are surviving on food handouts from the Egyptian Red Crescent.

Court ruling

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel has written a letter to the Israeli Defence Minister, Shaul Mofaz, saying that Israel is responsible for their suffering.

The letter cites Israeli court rulings, which it says show that the army must care for civilians in these circumstances.

So far Mr Mofaz's office has made no reply.

The group petitioned the Israeli High Court last Wednesday, and a hearing date has been set for the end of the month.

The army has not said exactly why it has shut the border, but the BBC's Alan Johnston in Gaza says there is no doubt that it fears an attack by Palestinian militants on its position at the crossing point.

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