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Gaza: hospitals struggling to cope as fighting intensifies

29-12-2008 Operational Update

Amid fierce fighting the ICRC is moving swiftly to assist Gaza's hospitals, which were overburdened even before the sudden influx of casualties. The priority is to get more medical supplies to the hospitals immediately. The first ICRC truckloads of supplies entered the Gaza Strip today.

  ©Reuters/Amr Dalsh    
  29.12.2008. Workers move an injured Palestinian man into an ambulance.    

  30.12.2008. Morning in Gaza city - people queuing in front bakery in Sheikh Radwan Gaza. A long wait and little bread.    
  Humanitarian situation  

According to the ICRC office in the Gaza Strip, the humanitarian situation remains alarming. The streets of Gaza are mostly empty. However, long queues are reported to be forming in front of bakeries. Meanwhile, prices for basic commodities are reportedly rising fast.

The situation in hospitals is described as chaotic. Palestinian sources indicate that by 10 a.m. local time on 29 December some 310 people had been killed and at least 1,000 wounded, 180 seriously. Medical teams have been dealing with a constant influx of wounded since 27 December and are stretched to the limit. " We are completely overwhelmed by the number of people coming in with very serious injuries. I have never seen anything like this, " said the head of the surgical ward of Shifa Hospital, in Gaza City. In addition, further medical supplies are urgently needed.

Some neighbourhoods are reported to be running short of water, either because the water network was damaged in the attacks or because of power shortages.

ICRC staff have been mostly unable to move inside the Gaza Strip due to the continuing attacks. However, the organization is in regular contact with both conflict parties and with hospitals and other public services. The ICRC currently has eight international staff and about 65 local employees working in the Gaza Strip.

In Israel, a second person was reported killed and several more injured by rockets fired from inside the Gaza Strip.

 ICRC activities:  

  • The ICRC's main priority is to assist hospitals in Gaza. The organization has so far provided kits sufficient to cover the needs of 200 wounded persons as well as intravenous fluids. Three ICRC trucks carrying blood units, spare parts for hospital generators, and other supplies entered Gaza today. The ICRC also succeeded in bringing five additional ambulances into Gaza today for use by the Palestine Red Crescent Society.

  • In the coming days the ICRC will try to bring into Gaza additional medical items, including blood units, syringes, gauze and adrenaline, and two generators for hospitals.

  • The ICRC is preparing for the possible deployment of additional staff, including a surgical team.

  • Security permitting, ICRC staff will visit Shifa Hospital in Gaza City today to conduct a first-hand assessment of the situation there.

  • The ICRC is exploring the possibility of bringing humanitarian assistance from National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies into Gaza.

  • The ICRC continues to cooperate closely with the Palestine Red Crescent Society.

The ICRC reminds the parties to the hostilities that international humanitarian law requires that a clear distinction be drawn between military objectives and the civilian population and civilian objects. In particular, the ICRC underlines the obligation of the parties to take all feasible precautions to spare the civilian population the effects of hostilities. Medical facilities and personnel must also be protected.

  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)