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Update No. 96/2 on ICRC activities in Iraq

06-09-1996 Operational Update

 New offensive launched in northern Iraq  

A new bout of hostilities erupted on 16 August between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), putting an end to the cease-fire concluded in August 1995. The ICRC called on the parties to observe the basic humanitarian rules in combat. Following mediation by the United Kingdom and the United States, the parties agreed a new cease-fire on 29 August.

However, the truce turned out to be short-lived: on 31 August Iraqi troops and KDP forces attacked and seized the PUK stronghold of Arbil. Several hundred of the town's inhabitants temporarily fled their homes to escape the fighting. After a brief lull, fighting between the KDP and the PUK recommenced yesterday in Koi Sanjaq, east of Arbil. While a number of humanitarian organizations have withdrawn from Sulaymaniyah and Arbil, the ICRC is staying on with 14 delegates deployed in the north in the three towns of Arbil, Dohuk and Sulaymaniyah and seven in Baghdad.

 Helping the wounded  

During the hostilities in August, which resulted in an estimated 400 casualties, the ICRC had already provided the six main hospitals in the Arbil/Sulaymaniyah region with emergency medical supplies. To be ready to respond immediately to further needs, the ICRC then set up contingency stocks in Arbil and Sulaymaniyah. A convoy carrying several tonnes of emergency medical supplies from Amman to Baghdad is scheduled to leave shortly.

On 1 September delegates delivered surgical and medical supplies to the main hospital in Arbil where an estimated 150 wounded people had been admitted. Several dozen more wounded were admitted yesterday following hostilities to the east of Arbil and further emergency medical supplies were provided for both the main hospital in Arbil and the town of Koi Sanjak.

 Visits to detainees  

Delegates based in northern Iraq regularly visit detainees held by the KDP, the PUK and, occasionally, the Kurdish Workers'Party. At the end of August, 555 detainees were being visited or having their cases followed in northern Iraq.

Since the beginning of September delegates have visited more than 300 detainees held by both the KDP and the PUK; of these more than 200 were visited for the first time and registered by the ICRC. The institution remains in contact with high-level authorities from both parties in order to ensure that it may have access to people newly detained in connection with the conflict.

 Water and sanitation  

As Iraqi water installations continue to deteriorate on account of the embargo on the country and the lack of qualified personnel, the ICRC has been running water and sanitation programmes since the end of 1994. The aim is to help improve public health by ensuring safe drinking water in sufficient amounts and providing for adequate evacuation of waste water throughout the country, including the north. This involves importing spare parts and equipment for water stations in need of renovation and supervising their installation. Under the 1995 programme, 90 water stations received this support. The 1996 programme covers 60 stations.

 Programme for the war-disabled  

The new ICRC prosthetic/orthotic centre in Arbil has started operating. The first patients were admitted on 4 August. The ICRC runs a workshop in Baghdad which makes components for prostheses and orthoses, as well as supporting the Ministry of Health centres in Basra and Najaf and the Iraqi Red Crescent centre in Mosul.