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West Bank and Gaza – ICRC Bulletin No. 19 / 2007

08-02-2007 Operational Update

Latest report on ICRC activities in the field

  General situation  

In the Gaza Strip, clashes between Palestinian factions erupted again on 1 February. By the time relative calm returned three days later, at least 28 persons were dead, including two women and four children, and more than 240 had been injured. Since 25 January, the fighting has left more than 60 dead and over 300 injured. Many victims were bystanders not involved in the violence.

It became difficult for ambulances to move around the Gaza Strip, as they had to pass through dozens of roadblocks and new checkpoints to deliver patients. Hospitals were short of blood and appealed in the mosques for donors. Although hospitals can still handle the injured, their stocks of certain emergency drugs and disposables are running low.

During the clashes in Gaza City on 3 and 4 February, armed factions fought from inside Shifa hospital, the main hospital in the Gaza Strip, hindering the movement of ambulances, patients and staff. A number of incidents have disrupted the work of emergency medical services in the Gaza Strip over the past few days.

In the West Bank, the Israeli army carried out daily military operations in Nablus city and the surrounding area, and in the towns and villages of Ramallah district. A number of people were wounded.

People in the West Bank are feeling even less safe than before, as the number of abductions continues to rise. Several Palestinians were kidnapped in the northern part of the West Bank and a number were injured in incidents between Palestinian factions.

The restrictions on movement in the most affected districts of Nablus, Tulkarem, and Jenin eased in the past weeks. However, Israeli-imposed measures have been affecting commercial traffic, with Israeli trucks bringing goods to the northern West Bank forced to offload their goods at the checkpoint in Tulkarem. Truckers at the terminal confirmed that these measures would hamper all container traffic to Qalqilya, Nablus and Jenin.
  ICRC activities  

To help hospitals in Gaza cope with the influx of casualties, the ICRC has prepared stocks of medical and surgical supplies, including dressing materials and surgical and anaesthetic drugs sufficient to operate on more than 300 people injured by weapons. The organization has also donated five surgical dressing kits for the treatment of casualties. On 2 February, the ICRC also provided 25 members of the emergency medical services with food parcels, as they had worked all night and day without rest or a chance to eat.

Violence on the streets prevented the ICRC from delivering drugs and disposables to the central medical stores, although it was possible to distribute some items directly from the ICRC warehouse.

Despite all difficulties, the ICRC enabled 525 Palestinians from Gaza to visit 256 of their relatives held in nine Israeli places of detention over the past week.

The ICRC also provided basic emergency relief including tents, blankets, mattresses, gas bottles, food parcels and hygiene items to 18 Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and Nablus after their houses were demolished. In January, the Israeli authorities destroyed at least 13 houses, claiming that they had been built without planning permission. The buildings included a four-storey block of flats in East Jerusalem.

In Bethlehem, East Jerusalem, Hebron, Nablus, Tulkarem, and Qalkilia, the ICRC provided almost 800 days of work for unemployed and vulnerable people whose condition had been worsened by the general economic decline in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Projects providing cash income for work also benefited local communities, with workers renovating roads and building retaining walls to guard against soil erosion.

In Hebron district, the ICRC is starting an agricultural programme that will involve renovating greenhouses and creating home vegetable gardens. The project will benefit 100 families from the village of Idna, where 200 hectares of agricultural and grazing land have been either lost or cut off by the West Bank Barrier.

The ICRC maintained its contacts with the authorities and with various Palestinian groups, and constantly reiterated its request for access to captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Through these contacts and its public statements, the ICRC urged those holding him to treat him humanely, to respect his life and dignity and to allow him to communicate with his family.
  In 2006, the ICRC:  
  • enabled people from Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem to make over 220,000 visits to relatives held in Israeli places of detention;
  • monitored the conditions of detention of almost 20,000 individuals held by the Israeli authorities;
  • carried over 12,723 Red Cross messages (brief personal messages to relatives who are otherwise unreachable because of armed conflict) between detainees and their immediate families, and made several thousand telephone calls to family members to inform them of the whereabouts and welfare of detained relatives;
  • during the health-care strike, monitored the situation in government surgical hospitals in Gaza and the West Bank, and supplied the central medical stores with life-saving medicines and disposables to help them continue to provide essential emergency services;
  • supported the emergency services and other essential medical services of the Palestine Red Crescent Society, while facilitating movement by the Society's ambulances when necessary, in particular during Israeli military incursions;
  • distributed tarpaulins, mattresses, blankets and other essential household items, including tents when required, to over 1,000 families whose houses had been destroyed or damaged;
  • provided back-up power generators and fuel, and set up, extended or repaired water-supply systems for over 134,000 people, particularly those affected by military operations in Gaza;
  • in the old town of Hebron, provided monthly food parcels for some 1,800 families, particularly those affected by "strict closures," which prevent residents from leaving their homes (over 37,200 food parcels and some 5,300 hygiene kits were distributed, along with over 157 tonnes of wheat flour for 1,250 families in need);
  • conducted livelihood-support programmes that enabled more than 800 households to develop new ways of generating income, despite restrictions on movement imposed by the closures, the settlements or the West Bank Barrier.
  •   For further information, please contact:
      Dorothea Krimitsas, ICRC Geneva, tel : +41 22 730 25 90 or +41 79 251 93 18
      Marcin Monko, ICRC Jerusalem, tel : +972 2 582 88 45 or +972 52 601 91 50
      Bana Sayeh, ICRC Jerusalem, tel : +972 2 582 88 45 or +972 52 601 91 48