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Israel, the occupied and the autonomous territories: ICRC responds to urgent humanitarian needs on West Bank

26-10-2001 News Release 01/42

In response to growing needs following the recent violence on the West Bank, the ICRC has stepped up its efforts to provide humanitarian aid and to act as a neutral intermediary wherever it can.

In Ramallah and Bethlehem, ICRC staff intervened between Israeli and Palestinian authorities to negotiate safe passage for members of the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) delivering bread and milk to civilians unable to leave their homes. They also negotiated a one-hour lifting of the curfew that has been imposed on Ramallah for several days, to allow the civilian population to go out and stock up on food, water and other necessities.

In one incident, 70 civilians were trapped in an apartment building in Bethlehem, unable even to move from room to room because of continuous shooting. They contacted the ICRC and asked for a delegate to negotiate their access to other parts of their homes, particularly kitchens and bathrooms. This was done, and the delegate also managed to evacuate 12 people, including a pregnant woman, from the building to King Hussein Hospital.

Following ICRC representations, PRCS ambulances were allowed to transport a dozen people in need of special medical care from Tulkarem to the hospital in Nablus. To help a patient who was too ill to be moved, the ICRC negotiated safe passage for two medical personnel, including a surgeon, to the town of Qualkiliya, still under strict closure. The surgeon subsequently performed complicated chest surgery in the local hospital and saved the patient's life.

On 20 and 21 October, ICRC trucks transported emergency medical supplies from the Ministry of Health warehouse in Ramallah to four hospita ls in Jenin, Bethlehem and Hebron. This was especially appreciated by 40 dialysis patients in Hebron, who were in dire need of the medicines required to treat their condition.

On Wednesday 24 October ICRC staff facilitated the transport of two wounded villagers and the mortal remains of five others from Beit Rima to Ramallah hospital. Three PRCS ambulances standing by at the entrance to Beit Rima had not been allowed to enter the village since the early hours of Wednesday morning, but the villagers told the ICRC over the telephone that Israel Defense Forces (IDF) medical services and a Magen David Adom ambulance inside the village were taking care of the wounded. Later the IDF handed over the casualties and the PRCS vehicles headed for Ramallah hospital with the wounded and dead on board. They reached their destination after passing through a last checkpoint, which also had to be negotiated by the ICRC.

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