Israel, the Occupied and Autonomous Territories: June-September 2002
05-10-2002 Operational Update
The ICRC's work in the fields of detention, assistance, restoring family links, promotion of international humanitarian law, and support for the Palestine Red Crescent and Magen David Adom between June and September 2002
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has maintained a permanent presence in Israel and the Occupied and Autonomous Territories (IL/OT/AT) since 1967. Monitoring compliance with International Humanitarian Law (IHL) has been one of its long-standing priorities, especially with regard to the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilians in times of war and occupation.
The upsurge of violence in 2002 has resulted in many casualties and caused great suffering for civilians on both sides. For the Palestinians, prolonged closures and curfews, destruction of public infrastructure and private property have led to socio-economic collapse, resulting in extreme hardship for the population. Faced with increased needs, the ICRC extended the scope of its assistance activities.
PERSONNEL: There are currently 224 staff working in Israel and the Occupied and Autonomous Territories, 79 of whom are expatriates. The ICRC's budget for 2002 has been extended from USD 21.8 mio to USD 48.7 mio.
The scope and scale of IHL violations are reflected in the alarming increase of civilian casualties.
In line with the ICRC's protection mandate, delegates monitor the situation for civilians living under occupation. When necessary, confidential and well documented representations are sent to the concerned authorities to ensure their respect for the Fourth Geneva Convention and for IHL principles. From June to September, 55 interventions referring to specific or thematic events were sent to the relevant authorities.
The ICRC has also condemned indiscriminate attacks spreading terror amongst Israeli civilians.
Detainees falling under the ICRC's mandate are visited regularly in Israeli and Palestinian places of detention, and their treatment and living conditions monitored. By the end of September, the number of people visited in Israeli detention places had risen to around 7,200 (including some 250 minors and 40 women), from 4,250 in February. Visits to administrative detainees rose from 35 to some 880 during the same period. The number of detainees held by the Palestinian Authority and visited by the ICRC on the West Bank and Gaza went down from 800 to around 250 by September, and included two women and one minor.
The ICRC's Family Visit programme for persons living in Gaza, the West Bank, East-Jerusalem and the Golan, to their relatives detained inside Israel, was often suspended by the Israeli authorities. Visits from the West Bank are still on hold, but have been running in Gaza since August, after a brief suspension. In June, the authorities set more stringent conditions. Visits from East Jerusalem and from the Golan were not interrupted. From June to September, 7,813 persons visited loved ones in various places of detention in Israel, while 1,370 who registered to go and fulfilled the criteria were refused permission by the Israeli authorities. During the same period, the ICRC exchanged 2,767 messages between detainees and their relatives and issued 4,857 certificates of detention. It also helped 658 students cross between Syria and the Golan, as well as 144 Druze pilgrims. Three Syrian brides-to-be were united with their fiancés in the occupied Golan.
The humanitarian situation in OT/AT deteriorated further under the strict clos ures and curfews. The ICRC's expanded assistance programme aims to alleviate some of the vulnerable groups'immediate problems and is of limited duration. The ICRC does not seek to substitute itself for the Occupying Power which is responsible, according to IHL, for meeting the basic needs of people living under occupation.
In nearly 300 villages on the West Bank, 21,731 families received food parcels; 20,768 received hygiene parcels and 11,255 families received a first distribution of sugar, rice and wheat flour. Fifty kilograms of each of these three items are given to 30,000 families every three months. School kits were given to 4,500 families for the new school year.
In Hebron, Bethlehem, Jericho, Tulkarem, Qalqilya, Salfit and Ramallah, a total of 14,695 families received vouchers for redeeming against various basic food and non-food items at local shops. The programme aims to benefit 20,000 families in nine cities and towns, but has yet to begin in Nablus and Jenin. In the Old City of Hebron, 2,000 families continue to receive a monthly food parcel.
Recently, house destructions in the Gaza Strip and on the West Bank have increased significantly. Families made homeless, or whose houses have been seriously damaged, receive tents, blankets, hygiene items, household goods and other emergency supplies from the ICRC. From June till September more than 2,115 persons in the Gaza Strip, and 377 in the West Bank were helped. Eleven large tents were donated to schools in Mawasi (Gaza Strip) to ease overcrowding.
ICRC specialists in vascular surgery, neuro-traumatology, orthopaedics and intensive care spent nearly 20 weeks in six hospitals on the West Bank and Gaza to coach and train Palestinian counterparts. Surgical instruments worth 84,000 US were donated to various hospitals under the programme. The ICRC also donated 68 oxygen concentrators and 21 pulse oxymeters to 14 hospitals, to ensure that emergency surgical and intensive care treatment can be given, even during times of closure or curfew. ICRC trucks also transported more than 100 MT of medical supplies for the Ministry of Health.
The ICRC is helping vulnerable communities to get enough clean water for their basic needs during the dry season. Households without piped water in 14 villages in Hebron governorate receive around five cubic metres of water per month, brought to them by tanker. The deliveries will continue until the winter rains.
The ICRC currently covers the running costs of some 80 PRCS ambulances, and 240 emergency medical technicians. It supports the PRCS's dissemination and information departments, and its web site as well as the new disaster response programme which includes mobile clinics in isolated villages, and a network of doctors and nurses who respond to emergency calls. The ICRC plays a crucial intermediary role in facilitating PRCS ambulance mobility in an extremely difficult environment through direct negotiations with the Israeli authorities.
Sixty ICRC-trained PRCS volunteers raised awareness about the dangers of mines and unexploded ordnance (UXOs) among 3,500 participants in 22 youth camps on the West Bank and in Gaza this summer
The ICRC co-operates with the MDA on tracing, dissemination of international humanitarian law, and disaster preparedness. Recently, it provided MDA with some 6,000 blood bags, and more will be given in the near future.
The ICRC is also co-ordinating the work of other Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies involved in support to field projects in the West Bank and in Gaza.
In Gaza, six IHL seminars were conducted for 20 lawyers in partnership with the Palestinian Bar Association. Information on IHL and the ICRC's mandate was disseminated to 45 journalists and 20 lawyers on the West Bank and in Gaza. The ICRC trained some 20 Palestinian students to disseminate IHL, who later made presentations to over 330 teenagers on the West Bank. It also sent two lecturers in Law from Birzeit University and one from the College of Management in Rishon Lezzion to an IHL seminar in Geneva.