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Gaza: families should be allowed to resume visits to relatives detained in Israel

10-06-2009 News Release 09/119

Geneva/Jerusalem (ICRC) – Families of Palestinians detained in Israel, who have been prevented from leaving the Gaza Strip for the past two years, must be allowed to resume visits to their relatives, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said today.

Parents, spouses, siblings and children of about 900 detainees have been deprived of face-to-face contact since June 2007, when the Israeli authorities decided to suspend the ICRC-run family visit programme.

" Palestinian families must be allowed to visit their next of kin in Israeli prisons. This is a humanitarian issue of utmost importance, " said Pierre Wettach, the ICRC's head of delegation in Israel and the occupied territories.

The situation has been especially painful for the children, who have gone without precious contact with a parent. On several occasions detainees or relatives of detainees have died without their family members having the opportunity to say their final farewells.

For more than four decades, the ICRC has been helping families from the occupied territories (West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan) to maintain contact with their relatives held in Israeli prisons.

The families are still nurturing the hope that, some day, they will again be allowed to board ICRC buses taking them to those they have been longing to see for two years now. Until then, communication between the families and the detainees is limited to written Red Cross messages and oral greetings collected when ICRC delegates visit detainees and passed on to the families in Gaza. Since June 2007, more than 10,000 written messages and 400 oral greetings have been exchanged with the help of the ICRC.

For further information, please contact
  Iris Meierhans, ICRC Jerusalem, tel: +972 52 601 9149 or +972 259 17 900
  Nadia Dibsy, ICRC Jerusalem, tel: +972 52 601 91 48 or +972 259 17 900
  Iyad Nasr, ICRC Gaza, tel: +972 59 960 3015
  Florian Westphal, ICRC Geneva, +41 22 730 22 82 or +41 79 217 32 80