Update 00/01 on Activities of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in Israel/occupied territories/autonomous territories
05-10-2000 Operational Update No 00/01
The ICRC is deeply concerned about the armed violence and the tragic loss of human lives since the end of September. The organization gives its full support to the "Palestine Red Crescent Society" (PRCS), which is working tirelessly to alleviate suffering and to save lives, despite dramatically depleting means.
For the past seven days the occupied and the autonomous territories have been engulfed in the worst violence since 1996. The clashes began on Friday September 29 in the old city of Jerusalem, when a demonstration in protest at Ariel Sharon's visit to Haram al-Sharif / Temple Mount deteriorated into violent incidents between the Palestinian population and Israeli military forces. Soon, fighting had spread to other cities throughout the West Bank and to Gaza, and to northern Israel.
Between 29 September and 5 October, over 2,000 people were injured and over 70 died. Frequently treated injuries stem from: tear-gas inhalation, rubber-coated metal bullets, live ammunition and rockets.
Assisting the wounded: PRCS activities in response to the emergency
The emergency medical se rvices (EMS) of the “Palestine Red Crescent Society” (PRCS) responded immediately. Their 250 professional emergency medical technicians (EMTs), together with several hundreds of trained volunteers, have been working tirelessly to alleviate suffering and save lives, assisting and evacuating the wounded and transporting the deceased.
The EMS have deployed 7 mobile first-aid stations (Ramallah, Jenin, Hebron, Nablus, Tulkarem, and two in Gaza), in addition to the 50 ambulances currently operating in the West Bank and Gaza from 19 EMS stations. These stations, which were introduced as part of the ICRC/PRCS cooperation programme in 1997, can be set up near the site of clashes and have proved highly efficient in dealing with mass casualties. The PRCS also runs 20 primary health care clinics. Medical personnel and volunteers in these posts have been treating and triaging up to 200 injured per day. Only the most urgent cases need transferral to hospitals (50-70 per day).
In some cases, the PRCS has been prevented from entering various areas and/or travelling between cities, and thus has been unable to reach the injured, in violation of the Geneva Conventions. Furthermore, 18 ambulances have been hit by rubber-coated metal bullets and/or live ammunition. One emergency medical technician was shot and killed while driving his vehicle.
Meanwhile, 19 Magen David Adom ambulances have been vandalized in Jerusalem and in northern Israel.
Obligations under international humanitarian law
The ICRC is deeply concerned by the violent incidents and armed clashes and deplores the bloodshed which has resulted.
The ICRC has reminded all those involved in the violence, in particular Israel, party to the Geneva Conventions, of the restraints imposed by international humanitarian law, and specifically of the obligation under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 to respect and protect civilians, and to apply the principle of proportionality whenever the use of force is required.
The ICRC also appealed to all parties to protect and assist the injured, and all medical personnel in their life-saving operations.
PRCS Emergency Medical Service appeal for support: urgent needs
The capacity of EMS coverage is being stretched beyond its limits. Medical supplies and disposables are being depleted. The ICRC delegation is currently covering the most urgent needs with regard to medical supplies to keep the first-aid posts operational as the violence continues.
The PRCS urgently requires assistance to replenish its stocks, to expand its network of field clinics, and to expand its current coverage by increasing the number of ambulances in both Gaza and the West Bank and by replacing old ones which have been damaged beyond repair. The Society has drawn up an appeal for a six-month period, covering the following needs:
vehicles - six new ambulances;
medical supplies and equipment - reanimation material for the ambulances, emergency rooms, and emergency medical stations.
PRCS-ICRC cooperation in the field of emergency medical services
The " Palestine Red Crescent Society's " permanent focus is on providing health care for the population in need. The emergency medical services are thus a clear priority of the PRCS. The Society’s fleet of ambulances is the main Palestinian provider of such services.
The ICRC and the PRCS have been cooperating in the field of emergency medical services since 1992/3. The ICRC provides financial, technical, material and training support for the EMS, which serve all sick and wounded in the autonomous and the occupied territories. The ICRC’s goal is to guarantee a well-functioning EMS able to ensure full regional coverage of emergency cases throughout the West Bank and Gaza, and to respond to large-scale disasters.
In accordance with the cooperation agreement signed with the PRCS for 2000, the ICRC will, by the end of this year, have provided four ambulances (in addition to the six included in the PRCS's appeal), medical equipment for hospitals, and essential relief items, have supported PRCS training schools, and trained 3,000 volunteers in first aid.
The ICRC also supports the PRCS in spreading information about the PRCS-Emergency Medical Services to the population, and in disseminating international humanitarian law and other humanitarian messages.
The events of the past week have shown that the Emergency Medical Services are highly capable of coping with numerous medical emergencies throughout the West Bank and Gaza.
In addition to these development programmes, the ICRC organizes family visits to places of detention in cooperation with the PRCS.
Cooperation within the International Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement
The ICRC continues to assume the role of lead agency for the Movement’s activities in the occupied and the autonomous territories, pursuant to the Seville Agreement of 1997. It consults regularly with its partners in the Movement working in the area, in particular the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (International Federation), the German Red Cross and the Netherlands Red Cross.
The International Federation focuses on promoting the institutional development of the PRCS (development of a community-based Society, better able to respond to the needs and priorities of the Palestinian communities) and support for the primary health care department.