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Israel and the Occupied/Autonomous Territories: overview of humanitarian priorities, 2003

15-01-2003 Operational Update

Humanitarian situation at its worst in 35 years; ICRC action to urge respect for international humanitarian law, to assist the most vulnerable among civilian population, to visit detainees, and to support Palestine Red Crescent and Magen David Adom.

In early October 2002, during a visit to Israel and the Occupied and Autonomous Territories, ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger noted that the situation in humanitarian terms had grown worse than at any time since the ICRC established a permanent presence there in 1967.

 
Protection of the civilian population 
 

ICRC response to growing humanitarian needs has seen a sharp expansion of its presence and assistance activities since the upsurge of violence in the spring of 2002. However, the organization continues to call on Israel to reconcile its legitimate security concerns with its overriding responsibility to ensure the welfare and protection of civilian populations under its occupation.

It also urges all parties to spare civilian lives and property, in accordance with the principles of IHL. Notably, the ICRC calls on all sides to make a clear and absolute distinction between armed forces and unarmed civilians not taking part in the hostilities.

 
Assistance for the most vulnerable population groups 
 

In 2003, despite Israel's ultimate responsibility in this respect, the ICRC will continue to provide the Palestinian population with direly needed assistance, albeit on a temporary basis. This is in accordance with its humanitarian mandate to ensure a minimum level of living standards, particularly among the most vulnerable population gro ups.

Security conditions in 2002 delayed the planned implementation of the " Urban Voucher " and " Rural Relief " programmes, launched in mid-2002 and initially scheduled to be completed by the end of the year. Both programmes have been underway for several months and will continue during the first half of 2003 to make up for the delays.

More than 50,000 particularly vulnerable families (around 300,000 persons) in urban and rural areas benefit from these programmes.

Under the " Urban Voucher " scheme, 20,000 of the poorest families, in nine major West Bank cities, will redeem their 90 US$ monthly vouchers against basic food and non-food items in shops selected by the ICRC, until the end of June 2003.

The " Rural Relief " programme will provide a further 30,000 needy families identified by the ICRC in isolated West Bank villages with dry food and non-food aid to supplement their dwindling or non-existent household budgets during the first six months of 2003. Another 2,000 vulnerable families in Hebron Old City will receive monthly food parcels during the year to come.

Civilians made homeless by the destruction or confiscation of their homes will continue to benefit from the ICRC " House Destruction Relief " programme which covers the basic needs in terms of shelter and household equipment available within four days of home loss.

ICRC specialists have identified more than 270 West Bank rural communities without access to a regular supply of drinking water and have implemented a water distribution programme which enables 4,000 of the worst affected families to receive 20 litres of water per person each day.

 
Visits to persons deprived of their freedom 
 

The ICRC continues to make regular visits to pe rsons detained by the Israeli Government and by the Palestinian Autorities to monitor conditions of detention and treatment.

 
Maintaining family links 
 

Visits by families of Palestinian persons who are detained in Israel, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, will continue under the ICRC " Family Visits " programme, although such visits have often been interrupted because of Israeli security restrictions since October 2000.

The ICRC will maintain its long-standing programme to help Syrian nationals living in the Israeli-occupied Golan to maintain regular contact with their families in Syria, and to travel to Syria for educational and religious purposes, or to conduct weddings in the separation zone.

 
Medical and surgical assistance 
 

ICRC delegates regularly facilitate the passage of Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) ambulances and medical supplies to overcome prolonged security clearance delays imposed by the Israeli authorities. ICRC war surgeons'support to Palestinian surgeons in West Bank and Gaza hospitals should ultimately reduce the need to transfer patients to referral hospitals.

 
Co-operation with the Palestine Red Crescent and Magen David Adom 
 

The PRCS and Israel's Magen David Adom society will continue to receive ICRC support in various fields including medical logistics, training, emergency preparedness, tracing, IHL dissemination and the provision of medical materials.

 
Co-ordination within the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement 
 

As lead agency, the ICRC will also continue to co-ordinate the relief response of the Movement in Israel, the Occupied and Autonomous Territories. An increasing number of national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies from other countries have been taking an active part in ICRC-led operations since the escalation of violence early in 2002.