The ICRC in Gaza: facts and figures

02-02-2009 Operational Update

Since the latest fighting started on 27 December 2008, the ICRC has been providing vital emergency aid and services, often working with the PRCS. In Israel, the ICRC has been supporting the Israeli National Society, the Magen David Adom.

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  Stories from the field

  ©Reuters / M. Salem    
Palestinians outside a makeshift shelter in Jabalya.    
  ©CICR / T. Domaniczky    
Farmers clearing debris from a field.    
©ICRC / il-e-01598    
ICRC staff assessing damage to houses.  
©ICRC / il-e-01598    
Distribution of plastic sheeting for protection to damaged houses. 
Delivery of a generator for a water pumping station.    

In addition to providing practical assistance, the ICRC has repeatedly urged the fighting parties to fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian law (IHL). Specifically, the organization has called on the parties to:

  • refrain from harming civilians;

  • collect, care for and evacuate the wounded;

  • protect medical workers and medical facilities, refrain from harming them and allow them to play their life-saving role.

The ICRC will also be providing the parties to the conflict with a confidential report on the conduct of hostilities from the point of view of international humanitarian law. This report will be based on information collected during the hostilities.

Current ICRC setup in Gaza: 16 expatriates, including a surgeon and a physiotherapist, and 65 national employees.



Medical and health care, emergency assistance to the wounded 


  • coordinated safe passage for PRCS emergency teams and escorted PRCS ambulances into dangerous conflict areas between 27 December and 18 January, facilitating many of the missions during which the PRCS evacuated around 2,400 injured people, 1,200 trapped civilians and 750 bodies;

  • coordinated the evacuation of dozens of patients from Al Quds Hos pital after the attack by Israeli armed forces, and escorted the PRCS ambulances carrying patients to Shifa Hospital;

  • coordinated the passage of PRCS and Ministry of Health ambulances transporting seriously injured patients to the Rafah border crossing for evacuation to hospitals in Egypt, from where some of them were transported to other countries;

  • provided equipment, medical supplies and consumables to help hospitals cope with the influx of casualties. Supplies included medicines, disposable items, blood units, patient ventilators, adrenaline, anaesthetics, suture sets, intravenous fluids, chest tubes, tetanus toxoid vaccines, dialysis machines, delivery tables, autoclaves, heart-rate monitors and hygiene kits. The ICRC provided hospitals with beds and mattresses for emergency rooms, blankets, body bags and white bed sheets for wrapping the dead. Shifa Hospital, for instance, received 20 beds. So far, the ICRC has brought 72 truckloads of supplies into the Gaza Strip.

  • delivered medical and surgical supplies sufficient to cover the needs of over 4,000 casualties;

  • assisted medical personnel at Shifa Hospital, Gaza City's main referral hospital. An ICRC surgical team headed by an experienced war surgeon started working there on 6 January, rapidly seconded by a surgeon and emergency doctor from the Qatar Red Crescent Society. The ICRC coordinated staff rotation at Shifa Hospital and escorted personnel to their places of work.

  • distributed food parcels and drinking water to hospitals, including the PRCS-run hospitals in Gaza and Khan Younis, and the Sisters of Mother Teresa Centre for the mentally handicapped;

  • provided generators and spare parts to ensure a reliable supply of electricity to hospitals affected by frequent power cuts;

  • coordinated teams of technicians conducting essential tasks, such as repairing a fuel tank at the European Gaza hospital in Khan Younis;

  • escorted fue l trucks to Shifa, Beit Hanoun, Kamal Edwan, Al Dorra, Al Awda, Ahli Arab, Patients Friends Society and Nasr Paediatric Hospitals, to several psychiatric hospitals in Gaza City, and to Amal and Al-Aqsa Hospitals in Khan Younis;

  • helped hospitals cope with damage inflicted by the fighting, by providing plastic sheeting to cover windows shattered by explosions, for instance in Shifa Hospital, Al Nasr Paediatric Hospital and Ahli Arab Hospital, together with blankets to keep patients warm.

  • transferred 15 ambulances into the Gaza Strip for use by the PRCS. Five vehicles had been donated by the Qatari Red Crescent and ten by the Swedish Red Cross.

  • escorted the fire brigade to the PRCS hospital, the PRCS cultural centre and the UNRWA warehouse after Israeli forces shelled these facilities, setting them on fire.

Assistance to civilians affected by the conflict 

During the conflict, people found themselves trapped in areas where fighting was taking place. Many had their homes damaged or destroyed. Others lost contact with their loved ones. According to the results of assessments that the ICRC and the PRCS have conducted so far, the conflict destroyed almost 1,500 houses completely and more than 1,000 partially, leaving tens of thousands homeless.


  • together with the PRCS, provided emergency aid to people left homeless, in the form of kitchen sets, hygiene kits, blankets and plastic sheeting. So far, the two organizations have helped around 50,000 people, in Atatra, Shijayia, Zaytun and Tuffah in the north and in Khan Younis and Rafah in the south.

  • provided shelter, blankets, mattresses and food for 300 pe ople who fled to the ICRC residence in Gaza;

  • donated 2,500 blankets and 500 mattresses for 11,000 people sheltering in UNRWA collective centres, plus 300 family hygiene parcels for 5,000 people;

  • helped evacuate more than 500 foreign nationals from the Gaza Strip on 2 and 6 January, escorting their convoys to a crossing point near Erez;

  • working with the PRCS, collected 150 Red Cross messages (brief messages containing family news) from families on 18 January for their relatives detained in Israel;

  • collected information on more than 100 people reported missing by their families during the conflict, in an attempt to find out what has happened to them and to restore contact between them and their loved ones.

Power and water supplies 


The conflict in Gaza left hundreds of thousands of people without proper access to clean water and electricity.


  • coordinated with the parties during the fighting, in particular the Israel Defense Forces, to ensure safe passage for teams of local technicians to repair damaged water and power supply installations. In some cases it escorted the teams, for instance when they went to the biggest wastewater treatment plant, in Sheikh Ajleen, south of Gaza City. ICRC teams also escorted Palestinian technicians repairing three out of the four power lines that carry electricity from Israel into Gaza City.

  • delivered three generators for water pumping stations in Khan Younis;

  • provided essential spare parts for urgent repairs and the maintenance of hospital water supply and sewage evacuation infrastructure.

 Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS)  

Around 200 volunteers, 60 emergency medical technicians and 120 medical staff were actively involved in providing emergency care in the Gaza Strip. The PRCS operated 37 ambulances, staffed by 120 paramedics. The PRCS runs two hospitals in the Gaza Strip, one in Gaza City and one in Khan Younis.

  • The PRCS emergency medical services, often with ICRC support, evacuated around 2,400 wounded people and 1,100 civilians and collected 750 bodies.

  • According to PRCS records, 14 medical workers from the PRCS and other organizations were killed, including one PRCS volunteer, and 24 medical staff were injured, five of them while working for the PRCS.

  More information about the PRCS  

 Magen David Adom (MDA)  


In Israel, the Magen David Adom provided emergency services to people affected by rocket attacks in the south of the country. The organization was on high alert, deploying some 200 ambulances and EMS personnel in the areas close to Gaza. Extra staff and volunteers from other regions of the country also deployed to support the civilian population.

  • MDA teams received thousands of calls for help and responded to more than 1,100 requests. They treated 182 casualties, of whom 15 had serious injuries. The MDA also took care of almost 600 people affected by stress.

  • Several tonnes of medical equipment and medicines were moved to the southern part of the country to treat the wounded.

  • MDA ambulances collected 22 seriously injured Palestinian patients from the Erez crossing for transfer to hospitals in Israel.

  More information about the MDA.  

 Egyptian Red Crescent Society  

In Egypt, the Egyptian Red Crescent Society played a key role in dispatching tonnes of goods urgently needed for the relief effort from their point of arrival in Egypt to the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. The majority of consignments consisted of medical supplies and ambulances, most of them provided by other Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies.

  More information about the Egyptian Red Crescent Society.