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Gaza: ICRC calls for immediate resumption of family visits to detainees in Israel

26-05-2008 News Release 08/88

Jerusalem / Tel Aviv (ICRC) – The Israeli authorities must take immediate measures to allow Palestinian families from Gaza to resume visits to their relatives detained in Israel, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said today.

The family visits organized by the ICRC since 1967 had to be suspended on 6 June 2007 following a decision by the Israeli authorities. As a result, the parents, wives, husbands, sisters, brothers and children of more than 900 detainees have been deprived of direct contact with their detained relatives for almost one year. Detainees depend on these visits not only for psychological support but also for material assistance such as clothes and blankets.

" This measure is depriving both detainees and their relatives of an essential life line, " said Christoph Harnisch, head of the ICRC's delegation in Israel and the occupied territories. " It further exacerbates the daily hardship faced by the Palestinian population trapped in the Gaza Strip. The ICRC has facilitated family visits for decades, always in line with Israeli security measures. While we acknowledge Israel's security concerns, we strongly believe that they alone cannot justify the all-out suspension of family visits to detainees. "

Because of the suspension of the visits, detainees and their families in Gaza can only communicate through Red Cross messages (brief personal messages to relatives made unreachable by armed conflict). As a result, the number of messages has increased from a monthly average of 10 before the suspension to 300 today.

" People continue to come to our office every day to sign up for family visits in the hope that the suspension will be lifted, " Mr Harnisch said. " The lack of direct contact with their detained relatives is becoming unbearable. "

  For further information, please contact:
  Helge Kvam, ICRC Jerusalem, tel: +972 2 582 88 45 or +972 52 601 91 50
  Iyad Nasr (Arabic), ICRC Gaza, tel: +972 8 28 28 874 or +972 59 60 30 15
  Yael Segev-Eytan (Hebrew), ICRC Tel Aviv, tel: +972 3 524 52 86 or +972 52 275 75 17