Israel and the occupied territories: The ICRC urges protection for Gaza civilians evacuating and staying behind

Jerusalem (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) urgently calls for the protection of civilians in Gaza trapped in fighting, whether they are trying to evacuate or staying where they are.
News release 12 November 2023 Israel and the occupied territories

Hostilities taking place in heavily populated urban areas, including around hospitals, endanger the lives of the most vulnerable people, like medical staff, patients, the wounded, premature babies, people with disabilities and the elderly.

"An unbearable human tragedy is unfolding in front of our eyes. People call us day and night, saying they are afraid to open their door for fear of getting killed, and pleading for help to reach safety," said William Schomburg, the head of the ICRC's sub-delegation in Gaza. "As a humanitarian worker, I feel frustrated not being able to respond to these calls, as our teams lack basic security conditions to move in northern Gaza."

The ICRC is gravely concerned by the precarious and unsafe conditions under which civilians are evacuating. Men, women and children, waving white flags, walk for dozens of kilometers without necessities like food and water past dead bodies lying on the streets. At the same time, the ICRC teams in Gaza and hotline operators receive numerous calls from displaced people searching for their family members. It is paramount that members of the same family are not separated during evacuations.

Irrespective of the arrangements for evacuations, safe zones or humanitarian pauses, the parties to the conflict continue to be bound by their obligations under international humanitarian law.

While civilians continue to move from the north to the south of Gaza, a hundred thousand displaced people lack essentials like shelter, food, water and hygiene items. The situation is rapidly approaching a humanitarian disaster. The southern area is not equipped to cater to the massive number of people arriving with nothing but the clothes they are wearing, and the quantity of humanitarian aid coming in is largely insufficient. The ICRC reiterates its call for an unimpeded and regular flow of humanitarian assistance.

In the past weeks, the ICRC has stepped up its emergency response in Gaza. It deployed a surgical team and a significant amount of medical and other critical supplies to support medical facilities throughout the Gaza Strip. The organization continues scaling up its support for emergency health care.

In the past days, the ICRC has also coordinated and in some cases accompanied convoys to evacuate hospital patients and displaced people from northern Gaza.

About the ICRC

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is a neutral, impartial and independent organization with an exclusively humanitarian mandate that stems from the Geneva Conventions of 1949. It helps people around the world affected by armed conflict and other violence, doing everything it can to protect their lives and dignity and to relieve their suffering, often alongside its Red Cross and Red Crescent partners.

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