Lebanon/Israel: civilians pay the price of conflict
14-08-2006 Press Briefing
The ICRC president, Jakob Kellenberger, has said that civilians have been the main victims in the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. Mr Kellenberger, speaking at a press conference in Geneva following his return from a visit to the Middle East, called for access to those most in need of humanitarian assistance in southern Lebanon.
Selection of photos from Lebanon and Israel (high resolution)
At the press conference, held hours after a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah entered into force, President Kellenberger welcomed the move.
" My strong hope is that developments since this morning will make it easier for us to reach all civilians in need of assistance. "
The ICRC aims to assist at least 200,000 internally displaced people and vulnerable residents in Lebanon with food and other essential items by the end of the year.
In addition, the organization aims to deliver drinking water to one million people and to support health structures used by 600,000 people.
After discussions with President Lahoud, Prime Minister Siniora and Speaker of Parliament Berri in Beirut, the ICRC president travelled to the southern city of Tyre last week to witness some of the difficulties facing the humanitarian mission as it tries to reach those affected by the conflict.
Many of the sick and elderly have been unable to flee their homes and require immediate help.
In subsequent discussions in Israel with the Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, as well as other senior members of the country's government, Mr Kellenberger continued to underline the urgency of gaining humanitarian access to towns and villages in southern Lebanon.
Mr Kellenberger said that Mr Olmert had assured him that everything would be done to facilitate access. After their talks, an ICRC ship was able to dock in Tyre on 12 August to unload its cargo of relief supplies and, hours after the ceasefire, some ICRC missions have taken place in various parts of Lebanon, including southern L ebanon.
Access to Tyre by sea became particularly urgent after the destruction of the main roads and bridges leading south.
The ICRC, in coordination with the Lebanese Red Cross, also continues to evacuate the sick and wounded and to collect the dead from beneath the rubble. After recent incidents where Lebanese Red Cross ambulances have been hit, Mr Kellenberger said he had insisted during his visit that the medical mission be respected.
During his visit, President Kellenberger said he again reminded both parties to the conflict of their obligation to respect the rules of war as enshrined in international humanitarian law, in particular, those applicable to the civilian population.
In Israel, he met the families of the three Israeli soldiers captured by Hamas and Hezbollah. The ICRC has asked that the soldiers be treated humanely and has requested access, so far without success. The President said this demand would be pursued with energy.
Meanwhile, in the occupied and autonomous territories, the ICRC has, since the President's talks in Israel, been able to resume its family visits programme enabling relatives to visit those being held in Israeli places of detention.
President Kellenberger visited Lebanon and Israel from 6 August to 11 August.