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Gaza: efforts to repair vital infrastructure ruined by intensified fighting

14-01-2009 Operational Update No 09/2009

In the Gaza Strip the past nights have been particularly frightening, as fighting has intensified. At the same time, rockets launched from Gaza have continued to affect the population in southern Israel.

  ©Reuters / I. Zaydah    
  13.01.09 A wounded Palestinian is carried to hospital in Beit Lahiya.    
  ©Reuters / I. Abu Mustafa    
  14.01.2009 A boy carries his belongings as he flees his house during Israel's offensive in Khuzaa, in the southern portion of the Gaza Strip.    
  Struggling to maintain power supplies  

Water pumping stations, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure depend on a reliable power supply to operate. It was therefore a devastating blow when power lines bringing electricity from Israel into Gaza, which had only recently been repaired in difficult and dangerous circumstances, were damaged again during the fighting on 12 January.

" Two of the three lines were damaged again just days after we escorted a crew from the Gaza electricity company to repair them, " said Javier Cordoba, the ICRC's water and sanitation coordinator.

The biggest wastewater treatment plant in Gaza, situated in the south of Gaza City, has also been damaged as a result of the conflict and repairs are still pending. The ICRC will assess the situation at the plant as soon as possible.

" It is crucial that power plants and water installations, which are indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, be spared, " said Mr Cordoba.

" Essential infrastructure in the Gaza Strip is suffering more and more damage, with dire consequences for public health, " he said. In particular, safe drinking water is becoming more and more scarce in the Strip.

In Beit Lahiya, in the north of Gaza City, a pumping station at a huge sewage lake is in urgent need of fuel. " If the station does not resume service soon, the sewage will continue to rise until the embankment collapses. An area inhabited by approximately 10,000 people risks being flooded with raw se wage, " said Mr Cordoba.

  Transferring seriously wounded patients out of Gaza

Because Shifa Hospital in Gaza City receives most of the badly wounded patients from other hospitals in the Gaza Strip, its intensive care unit is filling up quickly. To free up beds for the steady influx of new casualties, the hospital aims to transfer approximately 15 seriously wounded patients every day through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt for further treatment.

" On most days, the ambulance convoys manage to reach the border crossing without incident, " said Eileen Daly, the ICRC's health coordinator. " Nevertheless, it is a very frightening trip each time for all involved, as no one feels safe on the road with the fighting going on. "

These transfers of patients put extra strain on the availability of ambulances that can take other wounded people to hospital. The ICRC is trying to arrange for an extra 10 ambulances to be brought into Gaza for the use of the Palestine Red Crescent Society.

Once patients have crossed the Rafah border, they are taken to hospitals in Egypt or transferred to other countries for further treatment. It is hoped that paediatric patients will start being airlifted to Belgium in a few days'time.

  ICRC activities
  • ICRC and Palestine Red Crescent ambulance teams evacuated over 50 people today, including women and children, from the Zaytun area and another 25 from Abed Rabbo, East Jabaliya. Some were taken to Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City for treatment. On 13 January, the ICRC and the Palestine Red Crescent evacuated more than 60 people trapped in their homes in various parts of East Jabaliya. Another 26 left their homes on foot, escorted by ICRC staff and holding white flags, as roadblocks and sand walls prevented vehicles from reaching them.

  • ICRC surgeons and nurses continue to work around the clock at Shifa Hospital helping local doctors to treat casualties and perform operations.

  • Over the past 48 hours, the ICRC has also escorted trucks distributing 15,000 litres of fuel to Nasr Paediatric Hospital, to several psychiatric hospitals in Gaza City, and to Amal and Al-Aqsa Hospitals in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip.


  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)