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Gaza: ICRC medical team still banned from Gaza

03-01-2009 Operational Update

For the second consecutive day, Israeli authorities have refused to allow an ICRC emergency medical team into Gaza. The ICRC had notified the authorities of the team’s arrival in advance, but they have been awaiting authorization to enter the Strip since Friday morning, even though the Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel has been open for other humanitarian workers and foreigners to leave the Strip.

  ©Reuters /I. Abu Mustafa  
  03.01.2009 Palestinians sit on the rubble of a house destroyed in an Israeli air strike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.    
  ©Reuters /I. Abu Mustafa 
  03.01.2009 A Palestinian family rest in a United Nations aid centre in Rafah after fleeing their home.    
  ©Reuters /I. Abu Mustafa 
  03.01.2009 Buildings destroyed by an Israeli air strike in Rafah.    


The team, which consists of four specialists led by an experienced ICRC war surgeon, is to help the staff of Shifa hospital with complex operations on people injured by the bombing.

" It is absolutely essential that this team get into Gaza now, as this is when they are most needed, " said Pierre Wettach, the ICRC head of delegation in Israel and the occupied territories.


A week after the outbreak of hostilities, air strikes in Gaza continue to cause civilian casualties. Kamal Edwan Hospital and other hospitals in Gaza report the arrival of many new victims, including children. The Palestine Red Crescent society (PRCS) reports that between mid-day Friday and mid-day Saturday, their ambulances transported the bodies of nine children who had been killed.

Uncertainty and fear as to what will happen next are mounting, particularly since the Israeli military dropped leaflets by air on the northern part of Gaza, warning citizens to leave the area for their own safety. People are worried that attacks on homes will intensify.

" This is creating anxiety and confusion, " said Antoine Grand, head of the ICRC office in Gaza. “People are asking where they are supposed to go – and for how long. They call the ICRC for advice, but we have no answers. "

In southern Israel, the sirens indicating the launch of a rocket continue to go off at regular intervals, sending people running to air-raid shelters. Over the week to Saturday 3 January, the Ma gen David Adom reported four deaths and 55 persons injured.

  ICRC action  


  • The main generator at Shifa Hospital has been repaired with spare parts provided by the ICRC and is now running smoothly. This is an important improvement as it ensures a steady supply of electricity to the hospital, including all life-saving equipment.

  • Tal Al Sultan Maternity Hospital near Rafah has received four pallets of medical equipment and spare parts.

  • One pallet of basic medical equipment, plus blankets to keep patients warm, has been handed over to Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City.

  • One generator is to be delivered today to Beit Hanun Hospital, north of Gaza City.

If the security situation permits, the ICRC health team will attempt to carry out more assessments in hospitals over the next 24 hours. However, moving around Gaza remains dangerous as long as the bombing continues.

 Essential services  

The ICRC is working with the Israeli authorities to coordinate the movements of Palestinian Water Authority technicians carrying out repairs on water installations damaged by air strikes so that they can move around safely. Similarly, the ICRC is coordinating the movements of Palestinian Telecom technicians with the Israeli authorities so that generators for vital communications with the Gaza S trip can be refuelled.

  Action by the Palestine Red Crescent Society and Magen David Adom  

The Palestine Red Crescent Society continues to work around the clock. From Friday to Saturday mid-day, its ambulances transported 78 casualties to hospitals and collected fifteen bodies.

In addition to helping Israeli civilians affected by rockets fired from Gaza, the Magen David Adom (MDA) also continues to assist wounded children from Gaza who are evacuated through the Erez crossing point. One severely wounded 16-year-old Palestinian boy was transported by an MDA ambulance from Erez to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv.


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)