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Gaza: life-saving ambulances must be given unrestricted access to the wounded

08-01-2009 News Release 09/05

Geneva (ICRC) – Ambulances in Gaza must be given systematic round-the-clock access to the wounded everywhere in the territory so that they can save as many lives as possible, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Jakob Kellenberger, said today.

" Medical emergency personnel, particularly from the Palestine Red Crescent Society, must be granted safe unlimited passage so that they can reach the wounded, treat them and, if necessary, evacuate them to a medical facility, " Mr Kellenberger said. Israel has said that it will facilitate humanitarian access to the victims of the conflict in Gaza. This implies granting unrestricted access for ambulances and emergency medical personnel.

" We welcome the daily three-hour suspension of hostilities, which has at least temporarily eased the situation of the civilian population, " said Mr Kellenberger. " However, it must be possible to evacuate the wounded at all times, not just during three hours. " He added that the Israel Defense Forces and Palestinian armed groups are obliged under international humanitarian law to do everything possible to search for, collect and evacuate the wounded and sick, without delay, especially in situations where access for ambulances is not granted for security reasons.

International humanitarian law also stipulates that medical personnel, hospitals and other medical units must be respected and protected. The same holds for medical vehicles, such as ambulances, exclusively assigned to helping the wounded and sick. Attacks on medical personnel are prohibited, as are attacks on facilities used exclusively for medical tasks.

" These obligations apply to Israel and to the Palestinian armed groups fighting in Gaza, " said Mr Kellenberger. " We have already had cases of wounded people dying because the ambulances couldn't reach them in time. If these fundamental rules of international humanitarian law are not respected more people will die who could have been saved. "

See also previous news release .   For further information, please contact
  Dorothea Krimitsas, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 25 90 or +41 79 251 93 18
  Anne-Sophie Bonefeld, ICRC Jerusalem, tel: +972 2 582 88 45 or +972 52 601 91 50
  Iyad Nasr, ICRC Gaza, tel: +972 59 960 30 15 (Arabic)
  Yael Segev-Eytan, ICRC Tel Aviv, tel: +972 3 524 52 86 or +972 52 275 75 17 (Hebrew)
  Nadia Dibsy, ICRC Jerusalem, tel: +972 5917900 or +972 52 601 91 48 (Arabic)