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Israel, the occupied and autonomous territories: ICRC activities May 2007

31-05-2007 Operational Update

In Israel and the occupied and autonomous territories, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) works towards ensuring the faithful application of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), and above all the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilians in times of armed conflict and occupation - Also available in Hebrew.


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 Promoting respect for the civilian population  

As part of its ongoing humanitarian work, the ICRC has been discussing the humanitarian impact of several Israeli policies related to East-Jerusalem with government officials. This impact is linked to the construction of the West Bank barrier, house destructions, the expansion of settlements and the severing of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.

Following the increased violence that has been affecting the Gaza Strip, between the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and Palestinian militants, as well as among Palestinian factions, the ICRC called on all arms carriers to respect the basic principles of international humanitarian law by always distinguishing between combatants and civilians, by taking precautionary measures while conducting attacks and by strictly applying the principle of proportionality.

In the West Bank, the ICRC continued to follow the humanitarian consequences stemming from the deviation of the West Bank barrier inside the Occupied Territories as well as the restrictions of movement imposed by the IDF on Palestinian civilians. The ICRC has devoted particular attention to the specific case of the H2 area in Hebron city where the economic and social consequences of such restrictions are particularly disturbing.

 Monitoring conditions of detention  


In Israel, the Occupied and Autonomous Territories, the ICRC regularly visits detainees falling under its mandate in order to monitor their conditions of detention and the treatment they receive. The observations and recommendations of the ICRC are submitted confidentially to the authorities in charge.

 Detainees visited in Israeli places of detention  


In May, the ICRC visited 20 Israeli places of detention, including provisional detention centres, police stations and prisons as well as the interrogation centres which are visited on a weekly basis.

 Detainees visited in the Palestinian territories  


On the Palestinian side, ICRC delegates visited prisons, police stations and other detention facilities managed by the Palestinian Authority in Bethlehem, Hebron, Ramallah, Jericho, Qalqilia, Tubas, Nablus and the Gaza Strip.

 Family visits and messages to detainees  


The ICRC's family visit programme allows families from Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Occupied Golan to visit relatives held in Israeli places of detention.

In May, 15,753 persons travelled to 27 Israeli places of detention and visited 7,052 relatives in detention.

Another way of maintaining family links while people are detained is to exchange Red Cross Messages (RCM): 1,194 messages with family news were exchanged through the ICRC between detainees and their relatives.

The ICRC made several hundred phone calls to family members to inform them of the whereabouts and welfare of detained relatives.


 House destruction relief programme  


In the West Bank and Gaza the ICRC provided mattresses, blankets, kitc hen sets, food parcels and other essential items including tents when required to 8 families whose houses were totally or partially destroyed.

 H2 assistance programme  


In the old city of Hebron (H2), the ICRC distributed 3,482 food parcels to 1,741 families particularly affected by strict closures as well as over 10 kg of extra wheat flour per family for 1,177 vulnerable families.

 Emergency assistance  


The ICRC provided 154 food parcels, 63kg of wheat flour, 48 hygienic kits, 26 kitchen sets, 13 gas cookers and lamps, 156 blankets, 52 mattresses, 26 chairs, 13 tarpaulins, 13 buckets, 13 trays and 13 kettles to 95 needy families in the West Bank and Gaza including those trapped by ongoing military operations and poor families whose houses were damaged during a flash flood in East Jerusalem.

 Livelihood support and cash for work programme  


The ICRC also paid for 8,113 days of work in various infrastructure or agricultural projects across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Livelihood support programmes allowed 106 households to develop new ways of generating income despite restrictions on movement imposed by closures, settlements or the West Bank Barrier. The ICRC assistance generally includes materials such as greenhouse items, professional kits, livestock or material f or the rehabilitation of boats.

Cooperation with the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and the Magen David Adom (MDA) 

World Red Cross Red Crescent Day (8 May) was celebrated by the PRCS with a three-day workshop on humanitarian principles and the RC/RC Movement, organized in Ramallah. Representatives from the ICRC, the PA and civil society participated. Other " May 8 " events took place in PRCS Branches throughout the West Bank and Gaza.

Together with the MDA, on 21 May, an ICRC delegation travelled to Sderot, following the escalation in rocket attacks launched from Gaza, to observe first-hand the humanitarian consequences, including damage/destruction to property, and the impact on the community and the first-responders themselves (EMS personnel) as well as MDA efforts to increase their operational capacity.

Raising awareness about the ICRC and international humanitarian law 

It is the responsibility of all those involved in armed conflict to respect international humanitarian law (IHL). The ICRC supports their efforts by raising awareness about IHL and about its role and activities.

Within the framework of the Guest Lecture Series on IHL, organized in cooperation with the Hebrew University, Professor Benvisti and Col. Pnina Sharvit-Baruch organized a lecture on " Institutional Obligations in the Law of Armed Conflict " to the attention of members to the Israeli academia, NOG's and law particationners.

The delegation continued its regular presentations on the ICRC and basic principles of IHL to IDF checkpoint commanders and to soldiers in the Military Police West Bank passages unit.

On the Palestinian side, dissemination sessions on ICRC activities and the basic principles of IHL were carried out for students, members of women's centers, NGOs and security forces as well as PRCS staff and volunteers in the West Bank and Gaza.