ICRC activities in Israel and the occupied and autonomous territories: July 2006
31-07-2006 Operational Update
In Israel and the Palestinian territories, the 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 armed conflict and occupation. An update of activities in July 2006.
Promoting respect for the civilian population
The ICRC has focused its activities on both on the northern part of Israel and on Gaza, the two places that are severely affected by the escalation of violence in the region.
The Israeli-Hezbollah conflict has been a priority of the ICRC's protection and assistance activities in Lebanon. Coordinated by the Beirut delegation, ICRC Tel Aviv conducted assessment missions in the north of Israel in order to gather information on the consequences of the launching of rockets on civilian areas. The ICRC called on all the parties to the conflict to respect the basic principles of international humanitarian law: the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in order to spare civilian lives and property.
In addition, the ICRC continued to follow the evolution of the Israeli military operation in Gaza that started on 26 June. The ICRC paid particular attention and devoted increased resources to the issues of the targeting of infrastructure (in particular the electricity, water and sewage systems) and the destruction of civilian property (in particular houses located near the green line).
The ICRC has closely monitored the consequences of military operations in Nablus district and was particularly concerned by the operation that took place between 19 and 22 July, during which the headquarters o f the Palestine Red Crescent Society were occupied by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). The ICRC called on the IDF to respect the Red Crescent emblem and the medical mission in general. Moreover, on 20 July, it issued a press release calling on the Israeli army to immediately leave the PRCS premises in Nablus.
The ICRC furthermore conducted a visit to the prison of Nablus which sustained substantial structural damage during the above-mentioned operation. The ICRC distributed non-food assistance to the prison authorities in order to enable them to cope with increased needs.
The ICRC also raised with the Israeli authorities the situation of the Bedouin communities living near the Ma'ale Adumim settlement in the West Bank. These communities, which have received house destruction orders in 2005, are presently facing increased difficulties due to the construction of the West Bank Barrier and the expansion of the settlement. The ICRC called on the authorities to find a suitable solution for the humanitarian constraints faced by the communities and to grant them the possibility to continue to graze their flocks in a traditional way, which constitutes an essential element in their culture.
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 July, ICRC delegates visited all four Israeli interrogation centres and Nafha, Gilboa, Ma'asiahu, Ayalon, Rimonim, Megiddo and Hadarim prisons. They also visited Salem, Efraim, Binyamin, Gush Etzion and Howarah provisional detention centres as well as Ofer Military detention Camp. Other visits were carried out to Hadera and Zohar Immigration Police Station.
Detainees visited in the Territories
On the Palestinian side, ICRC delegates visited Saraya central prison and the police station in Rafah.
In the West Bank, ICRC delegates visited Nablus, Ramallah and Hebron central prisons and the interrogation centres of the General Intelligence (Mukhabarat) in Jericho and Nablus as well as police stations in Bethlehem.
Family visits and messages to detainees
The ICRC's family visits programme allows families from Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights to visit relatives held in Israeli places of detention. Facilitating these contacts is of primary importance to the ICRC. Following events in Gaza the fa mily visits programme has been suspended by the Israeli authorities.
Throughout the month of July, the Israeli authorities suspended the family visit program in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It was resumed only in Bethlehem district and East Jerusalem on 30 and 31 July. Consequently, only 678 people (602 from Bethlehem district and East Jerusalem and 76 from the Golan), were able to travel to 23 Israeli places of detention to visit 248 detained relatives.
Another way of maintaining family links while people are detained is through the exchange of Red Cross Messages (RCM). In this period, more than 2,650 family news messages were exchanged through the ICRC between detainees and their relatives.
During the month of July, the ICRC carried out the following assistance activities:
House destruction relief program
42 families in the Gaza Strip received ICRC relief kits.
H2 assistance program
In the city of Hebron (zone H2 under Israeli control), the ICRC distributed food parcels to close to 1,800 families affected by strict closures.
Food and hygiene parcels were distributed to 937 vulnerable families in the West Bank and Gaza.
Cash for work projects in the West Bank provided temporary employment to 205 heads of families, while 207 households benefited from livestock programmes.
Two weapon wounded kits were donated to the Central Medical Stores in Gaza. Each kit is designed to treat up to 100 weapon wounded hospitalized persons. Life-saving drugs were transported between the two central medical stores in Ramallah and Gaza and medical books and journals were distributed.
In addition, an in-depth health assessment was completed in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The ninth MDA/PRCS liaison committee meeting took place at the ICRC's Jerusalem delegation. It was a positive meeting, the first since recognition of the two National Societies by the Movement, and will continue to be the platform for the ongoing implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding between the PRCS and the MDA.
The cooperation delegate evaluated damage to the PRCS Nablus branch after it was occupied by the Israeli Defence Forces. It also suffered blast damage when adjacent government buildings were demolished.
The ICRC facilitated the transfer of 9 ambulances and medical supplies from PRCS headquarters in Ramallah to Gaza in order to improve the operational capacity of the emergency medical services (EMS). Visits were conducted to EMS Stations/branches in Rafah, Khan Younis, Al Mawasi & Deir Al Balah to gather information on the PRCS response to the current cris is and operational issues.
The ICRC is also facilitating the transfer of tents and other relief items from PRCS headquarters in Ramallah to Gaza, to better prepare the PRCS to meet the needs of those displaced due to the current escalation of military activity in Gaza.
It is the responsibility of all those involved in armed conflict to respect international humanitarian law. The ICRC supports their efforts by raising awareness about IHL and about its own role and activities.
In July, in the wake of the escalation of events in the Gaza Strip and the start of hostilities in Israel and in Lebanon, awareness on ICRC activities and humanitarian mandate was raised through a host of interviews given to various Israeli media outlets. Awareness on the basic principles of IHL during the conduct of hostilities was also raised in media interviews.
Regular presentations to Israeli Military Police trainees continued over the month.
On the Palestinian side, several dissemination sessions were held for those attending the PRCS summer camps in various West Bank districts.
Other sessions were carried out for PRCS staff and volunteers, university students, prayer leaders and members of village councils and local organizations in the West Bank and Gaza.