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Press conference of the ICRC president in Jerusalem

14-01-2009 Press Briefing

At a press conference in Jerusalem on 14 January, ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger shared his concerns following his visit to the Gaza Strip and to the Israeli town of Sderot. He demanded that the parties spare civilians and protect and care for the wounded.

  ©ICRC / I. Eytan    
  14.01.2009. ICRC press conference in Jerusalem    

" What I saw during my visit to Gaza yesterday was a tragic situation resulting in more and more suffering among women and children, and more and more casualties arriving at hospitals, " said Mr. Kellenberger. He added that international humanitarian law prohibits attacks on civilians, and stipulates that fighting parties must make every effort to distinguish between civilians and those taking part in hostilities. The parties must not launch attacks that might cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects that would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

At Gaza's Shifa Hospital, the main referral hospital in the territory, Mr Kellenberger visited patients and spoke with medical personnel in the intensive care unit and the orthopaedic department. " What I saw there is shocking. It really hurts when you see all the wounded and the gravity of the wounds they suffer, " he said.

Mr Kellenberger also met with Palestine Red Crescent Society medical teams, who are working with great courage in very difficult circumstances. He praised the work of the medical team in Gaza and said: " I want to say how much I respect such courage. They are running the ambulances and the ICRC is negotiating their safe passage. The ICRC escorts ambulance convoys in order to add to their protection. "

The daily three-hour pause in fighting that allows humanitarian workers to do their jobs is a step in the right direction, but it is not sufficient, he added. Wounded people need to be evacuated quickly. " They cannot wait for days, or even f or hours. You must have access to them, so that you can care for them and evacuate them if needed. This is non-negotiable. "

He stressed that all parties to a conflict have a legal and moral obligation under international humanitarian law to protect medical personnel and medical facilities.

Mr Kellenberger also spoke about his visit this morning to Sderot, in southern Israel. " It is very difficult for civilians to live under the threat of rocket attacks, not only for weeks, but for years. The experience can be terrifying, especially for children, " he said.

The ICRC president also met with staff and officials of the Magen David Adom, the Israeli National Society. " They have the means and the capacity to do a good job, " he said.

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)