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Gaza: fear reigns as air strikes continue

02-01-2009 Operational Update

Israeli air strikes continue to hit Gaza, resulting in further casualties, including women and children. The streets are almost empty, with the population too frightened to venture out. Most only leave their homes in an emergency, or to find food. The majority of shops remain closed, including bakeries.

  ©Reuters /I. Zaydah 
  02.01.2009 A PRCS worker and other Palestinians run with a wounded man.    
  ©Reuters /I. Zaydah 
  01.01.2009 Injured Palestinian children are carried to hospital.    
  ©Reuters /M. Salem 
  02.01.2009 A destroyed house in Jabaliya    


" Nobody feels safe, " said an ICRC employee from Gaza. " We are trying to guess if any houses near us might be targets. The problem is that we have nowhere to run for shelter. And we are tired. What we need now is security. "

The bombs have also damaged the water supply system. Two wells near government buildings were reportedly destroyed in Thursday's air strikes. Bombing also damaged a well in Jabaliya refugee camp, affecting about 30,000 people, but it is currently too dangerous for the ICRC to help with repairs.

It remains dangerous for aid workers such as the ICRC and Palestine Red Crescent (PRCS) ambulance teams to move around the Gaza Strip. Two PRCS medics were slightly injured on Thursday as they were helping casualties in Gaza City.

Thanks to the help of the ICRC and others, most hospitals have the minimum supply of drugs and other basics they need to treat the wounded. Nevertheless, it will be necessary to bring large quantities of medical items into the Gaza Strip over the coming days.

The population of southern Israel continues to suffer the effects of regular rocket attacks from within Gaza.

  ICRC action  

On the morning of 2 January, the ICRC helped to evacuate some 230 nationals of Russia and other countries of the Community of Independent States from the Gaza Strip.

An ICRC surgical team comprising a surgeon, an anaesthetist, an operating theatre nurse and an intensive care nurse has arrived in Jerusalem and is ready to leave for Gaza, where they w ill be assisting the surgical staff of Shifa Hospital. However, they have not yet received the necessary authorization from the Israeli authorities.

On Thursday 1 January, the ICRC donated 20 beds and mattresses for the emergency room at Shifa Hospital, together with 160 white sheets for wrapping dead bodies. The organization also delivered plastic sheeting to Al Nasr Paediatric hospital in Gaza City, to cover windows shattered by yesterday's explosions. Despite the sheeting, it is still too cold on the wards. The ICRC has supplied Al Najjar hospital in Rafah with needles and suture material sufficient to treat 35 to 50 casualties.

On Thursday, the ICRC distributed 23 pallets of medical equipment (stethoscopes, blood pressure machines, heart rate monitors, etc.) to seven hospitals in Gaza. A further five pallets of medical equipment are due to be distributed shortly.

The medical teams of the Palestine Red Crescent Society transported 18 corpses and evacuated and treated 46 casualties during the 24 hours up to noon on Friday 2 January.

In Israel, mobile intensive care units from the Magen David Adom transferred two critically wounded 8-year-old children from Gaza to two different hospitals on 1 January and the National Society continues to provide life-saving services in the south of the country.

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)