Geneva (ICRC) – "After 52 days of conflict, the Gaza Strip is a shambles," said Robert Mardini, the head of operations for the Near and Middle East at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who just completed a mission to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. In order to respond to the immense needs, the ICRC is increasing its initial budget by almost 70 per cent, bringing it to a total of 73.3 million Swiss francs (approximately 80.2 million US dollars).
"The ICRC was on the ground in Gaza throughout this latest conflict, carrying out its humanitarian work as it did in previous ones. With our 280 staff based in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, we are committed to doing everything we can to help people recover yet again," said Mr Mardini. "The current humanitarian situation has to be viewed in the wider context of ongoing occupation, eight years of closure and heavy restrictions on the movement of goods and people, three conflicts occurring within just six years, and an already fragile infrastructure."
This latest conflict has generated significant needs. Tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes in utter destitution, and thousands of houses and other structures have been entirely or partially destroyed. The water network and electrical installations have been severely damaged. The medical sector has been stretched to its limits and hospitals have been hit by shelling or other munitions. Businesses have closed, leaving countless families without any breadwinning activity. Some 40 per cent of agricultural lands have been rendered fallow and crops destroyed. Around 60 per cent of the people in Gaza under 18 years of age are severely traumatized, while the risks posed by unexploded and abandoned ordnance are life-threatening.
The ICRC is allocating additional human, material and financial resources to respond to these needs. It will combine emergency action with medium- and long-term projects in coordination with local partners and the authorities.
A key priority for the ICRC during the hostilities and in their aftermath has been to ensure that the wounded and the sick are treated in a timely manner. Accordingly, the ICRC will boost its support for the Palestine Red Crescent Society, and for the society's emergency medical services in particular. The ICRC will continue to provide key hospitals with medical supplies, spare parts for generators, fuel and technical advice. Four hospitals heavily damaged during the fighting will be repaired.
The ICRC will also work with local water boards to repair damage to the water supply network and provide technical expertise whenever needed.
In partnership with the Palestine Red Crescent, the ICRC is distributing food and household items to displaced people and returnees. In addition, it plans to provide support for farmers in the border areas.
The ICRC will maintain its cooperation with and support for the Magen David Adom and the Palestine Red Crescent to help ensure timely delivery of humanitarian services.
"The civilian casualty toll and the extent of destruction are worse than any the area has witnessed in recent years," said Mr Mardini. "This indicates that violations of international humanitarian law have occurred, despite our constant reminders to all parties to the conflict of their obligations with regard to the protection of civilians and civilian property."
On the basis of direct observations and monitoring on the ground, the ICRC has made representations to all involved in the conflict. It continues to visit people held in Israeli places of detention, where it attends in particular to people arrested in connection with the recent hostilities.
The ICRC will press on in its dialogue with the Israeli authorities on the impact that restrictions on movement are having on the livelihood of Palestinians. "It is high time that a suitable solution was found, as civilians are in distress, and any real recovery has to be sustained over time," said Mr Mardini.
For further information, please contact:
Nada Doumani, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 37 23 or +41 79 447 37 26
Nadia Dibsy, ICRC Jerusalem, tel: +972 52 6019148