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Lebanon/Israel – ICRC Bulletin No. 13 / 2006

18-08-2006 Operational Update

Latest report on ICRC activities in the field

The long-awaited ceasefire came into effect on 14 August at 8 a.m. local time. As if by magic, silence replaced the unrelenting sound of shelling that had continued throughout the weekend in southern Lebanon.

As predicted by the old hands, the roads heading south from Beirut were jammed with traffic within hours. Cars piled high with foam mattresses and overflowing with personal belongings started queuing at the narrow passages opened on the coastal road between Sidon and Tyre. Thanks to temporary repairs, even the Litani river proved to be no obstacle.

Southerners who fled the fighting are now anxious to assess the damage to their homes and neighbourhoods. Most of the inhabitants of Tyre were able to move back into their apartments and houses rapidly, even though electricity and water was not always available. The situation is entirely different for many of those who fled the towns and villages further south.

The level of destruction varies drastically from one place to another. While filling stations, industrial complexes, commercial malls and private homes have borne the brunt of the fighting, hospitals and dispensaries have also been damaged. One orphanage run by a local religious charity was entirely flattened by bombs.

In Tibnin, the main street of a residential neighbourhood is littered with unexploded ordnance dropped in the last few days of the fighting. Some of the deadly devices lay strewn in front of a hospital and the local branch of the Lebanese Red Cross. Many more are buried in the rubble of collapsed buildings.

 Action by the ICRC, the Lebanese Red Cross and their partners  

ICRC convoys carrying food, medical supplies and fuel for generators have taken to the roads in a major effort to reach villages and towns that have been cut off from the outside world for as long as two weeks. Fuel is among the items most coveted by residents who have had to survive without being able to pump water for many days. Food may have been running short in some cases, but most villagers managed to survive on staples they had in reserve.

With the return of displaced people to the cities and villages by the thousands, ICRC delegates are assessing needs while they distribute aid to the most vulnerable inhabitants, including the elderly. Many of these people stayed put throughout the conflict.

On 15 and 16 August, the ICRC provided 1,900 families in Jezzine with parcels containing food, baby food and other essential items, and brought 450 such parcels to four villages south of Marjayoun, near the eastern border region. On 17 August, seven ICRC convoys carrying food and fuel reached villages around Tyre and along the Blue Line near Bent Jbail and Rmeish. The ICRC's aim is to cover the entire southern area and assess future needs.

A key priority is to help restore the water supply. ICRC sanitation engineers are currently working in close cooperation with local specialists and the water boards in order to repair damaged networks. On 17 August, a team examined the pumps in the region of Marjayoun   to assess where repairs needed to be carried out.    

    

The ICRC is also endeavouring to spread information on the dangers of unexploded ordnance by talking directly to the population and through Lebanese radio channels and other media.

Lebanese Red Cross volunteers had to work round the clock for two days to reach isolated villages and evacuate dozens of wounded people. Some of these people had been waiting up to a week for medical care, others were wounded in the last two days of intense fighting that preceded the ceasefire. The bodies of more than 80 people were brought to the morgue in Tyre. It will probably be weeks before the number of victims is known with any degree of certainty.

As there is no referral hospital currently functioning in the mountains around Bint Jbail, patients from the area have to be transferred by the Lebanese Red Cross to Tyre for treatment. The ICRC is supporting various health facilities, in particular by providing them with medicines for chronic diseases. On 17 August, it delivered medical supplies to villages south-west of Marjayoun.

Elsewhere in the country, namely in the Baalbeck region and the Chouf mountains, further distributions were carried out. In the Beit Eddine area south-east of Beirut, 12 trucks delivered some 2,000 food parcels, 2,000 bags of rice (25 kg each) and 7,500 blankets. Contacts are also being made with local authorities concerning the possibility of assisting people in the southern suburbs of Beirut.

The ICRC is cooperating with the Red Crescent and Red Cross Societies present in Lebanon by providing logistical support for their operations and facilitating the reception and distribution of supplies and vehicles, in particular those coming in from Qatar, Turkey, Norway and Kuwait.

 Medical evacuations and recovery of bodies by Lebanese Red Cross  

Between 12 July and 17 August, the Lebanese Red Cross evacuated 979 wounded persons and transported another 7,097 medical cases. It also collected 394 bodies.

 Magen David Adom action in northern Israel  

    

Between 12 July and 14 August, MDA personnel treated and evacuated hundreds of people, including 214 severely or moderately injured civilians, and collected the bodies of 43 civilians. No casualties have been reported in northern Israel since 14 August.

 Meeting in Geneva  

The ICRC invited 23 National Societies and representatives from the International Federation to meet in Geneva on 15 and 16 August 2006 to discuss its operations in Lebanon. In addition to the ICRC and the Federation, the Lebanese Red Cross, the Magen David Adom, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the Palestine Red Crescent Society all gave presentations about their response to the humanitarian needs in the region.

 Facts and figures  

    

 Since the start of the crisis, the ICRC has:  

    

  • provided food and other basic items for 30,953 families,

  • distributed, in cooperation with Lebanese Red Cross volunteers, 1 million litres of drinking water to internally displaced persons scattered in some 30 schools in Beirut and its surroundings;

  • delivered 50,000 litres of fuel needed to run vital civilian infrastructure, such as hospitals, Leban ese Red Cross health centres and water pumps in isolated villages around Tyre, Marjaayoun and Rachaya in southern Lebanon;

  • provided drugs, surgical equipment and other medical supplies (to treat the war wounded and people suffering from chronic illnesses) for a dozen medical facilities, including hospitals and Lebanese Red Cross health centres, mainly in southern Lebanon;

  • shipped and airlifted over 2,000 tonnes of relief supplies to the region (another 12,000 tonnes of supplies are to be delivered by mid-September).

 For further information, please contact:  

 Annick Bouvier, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 24 58 or +41 79 217 32 24  

 Michèle Mercier, ICRC Beirut, tel: + 961 1 739 297 or + 961 35 42 839  

 Roland Huguenin, ICRC Tyre, tel: + 961 3 35 62 91  

 Bana Sayeh, ICRC Jerusalem, tel: + 972 2 582 88 45 or + 972 57 880 91 93