The ICRC in Israel and the Occupied/Autonomous Territories: activities, January to July 2004
31-07-2004 Operational Update
As the Israeli-Palestinian crisis remained locked in a cycle of violence with no progress on the implementation of the Middle East "road-map" peace process launched in mid-2003, the ICRC enhanced its field presence consistent with the severity of the situation.
- visited thousands of Palestinian detainees held by Israel, and hundreds detained by the Palestinian authority
participated in a release-and-repatriation operation of prisoners and human remains between Israel and Hizbullah in Lebanon
- supplied emergency shelter and household kits to hundreds of Palestinian families
- delivered water to thousands of families in West Bank areas and improved water-storage facilities
- provided emergency food and other basic aid to destitute West Bank families
- delivered medical and surgical supplies to Gaza hospitals and facilitated Palestine Red Crescent ambulance movements
- called upon Israel not to plan, construct or maintain the West Bank Barrier within occupied territory to ensure that it complies with the requirements of IHL
Hostilities were particularly intensive in the Gaza strip, with frequent Israeli air strikes and large-scale house demolitions and d amage to vital water and sanitation infrastructure. There were fewer Palestinian suicide bombings in Israeli territory than in the same period the previous year, but there were several serious incidents nonetheless. There were also attacks on Israeli citizens living in settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.
The ICRC as an absolute priority repeatedly exhorted all parties to spare the lives of civilians not directly participating in the violence. Its increased field presence enabled it to monitor and document violations of IHL and make relevant representations to the parties concerned more effectively. In particular, the ICRC drew attention to the humanitarian impact of the West Bank Barrier constructed by Israel, repeatedly calling for measures to mitigate the consequences of the barrier for many Palestinians. It also improved its capacity to assess and respond to emergency needs.
In particular, Palestinian families made homeless by the destruction or expropriation of their homes remained a prime concern and continued to receive emergency relief aid. Other communities in the West Bank benefited from the delivery of water supplies and the enhancement of water storage facilities.
As a neutral intermediary, the ICRC facilitated the delivery of medical provisions, equipment, staff and vehicles to the wounded and sick in the Palestinian territories. The ICRC also supported efforts by the Palestine Red Crescent Society and the Israeli Magen David Adom to help victims of the continuing hostilities.
Regular visits were made by delegates to people held by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority in order to monitor their treatment and conditions of detention, and to enable them to re-establish or maintain contact with their families. Assistance was provided to detainees in acute hardship.
Foreign nat ionals imprisoned in Israel and without diplomatic representation, as well as Lebanese nationals living as refugees in Israel were also helped to maintain family contacts. In addition, efforts continued to clarify the fate of Israelis still unaccounted for as a result of the conflict with Lebanon. Meanwhile, persons released from Israeli detention were repatriated under ICRC auspices, as were the human remains of Lebanese and other nationals from past conflict.
The ICRC reinforced its dialogue with Israeli and Palestinian civil and military authorities as well as armed group at all levels in order to promote a better understanding of and respect for IHL. Progress was made towards integrating the basic values enshrined in IHL into Israeli and Palestinian secondary-school education curricula.