Gaza: a quest for something like normality
30-01-2009 Operational Update
The two-week-old ceasefire announced by the warring parties remains fragile. Since 28 January there have been, in addition to occasional exchanges of fire, incursions and air strikes by Israeli forces and rockets launched from Gaza into Israel.
Meanwhile, the people of Gaza are still trying to come to terms with the immense destruction left by the fighting. The Palestine Red Crescent Society, working alongside the ICRC during and after the conflict, has been at the forefront of efforts to ease their suffering.
As Dr Mohammed Wadi, the Palestine Red Crescent's director for emergency medical services (EMS), put it: " For us, the situation is back to normal as far as our basic activities are concerned. We take emergency calls as we used to do before the war. But doubts remain about what the future holds for the service. "
The Red Crescent had to move its ambulance dispatch centre to Al Quds Hospital, which is up and running again after having been bombed during the conflict, because its main station in Gaza City has not yet been renovated. It will take time until they can fix it since cement is not available. Two other EMS stations also damaged by the bombing are back in service.
An additional difficulty the Palestine Red Crescent has to face is the destruction of almost all its computers and the resulting loss of vital data. The Red Crescent is still in the process of assessing the extent of the damage.
Fortunately, five injured EMS staff have been able to return to work. Palestine Red Crescent personnel benefit from psychological support to help them overcome the trauma caused by the conflict.
Asked about the future, Dr Wadi simply said that he hoped that " everything would stay normal and that the ceasefire would hold. "
Apart from its key role in tackling medical emergencies, the Palestine Red Crescent Society is helping the ICRC to assess the number of houses destroyed or partially destroyed in the southern and northern Gaza Strip. Some 120 highly motivated volunteers are also helping ICRC delegates to distribute plastic sheeting, tarpaulins and tape to cover roofs and windows. Families in need will also receive blankets, jerrycans, buckets, and kitchen and hygiene items.
ICRC and Palestine Red Crescent activities
In the Zaytun area, the ICRC and the Palestine Red Crescent have provided essential supplies for nearly 19,500 persons whose houses were fully or partially destroyed, and plastic sheeting for more than 48,000 persons. As at 28 January, the ICRC has counted 1,484 fully destroyed and 1,067 partially damaged houses.
ICRC health staff have distributed disposable items and medical equipment to the biomedical engineering department of the Ministry of Health and to Najjar and Ahli Arab hospitals.
The ICRC is closely monitoring the issue of persons unaccounted for following the conflict in Gaza. It has contacted the authorities both in Israel and in Gaza to obtain access to prisoners captured during the conflict.
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)