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Gaza: medical needs remain pressing

31-12-2008 Operational Update

The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip remains extremely worrying, especially in terms of the medical situation, following a fifth day of Israeli military operations. Meanwhile, Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli towns continued during Wednesday.

  ©ICRC / v-p-il-e-01534    
  31.12.2008. The ICRC has been delivering medical supplies to the ministery of health, the PRCS and the main hospitals in Gaza.    
  31.12.2008. Jabalya Refugee Camp. People queuing in the rain to buy bread.    
  A Palestinian man carries his wounded son.    

  General situation  

Wednesday saw more cars on the streets of Gaza, but the queues in front of bakeries and shops remained very long. In Jabalya refugee camp, for example, the queue outside the only open bakery stretched for up to 300 metres, with desperate residents braving heavy rain to buy bread. Food is still available in some shops, but prices have skyrocketed over the past five days. Dairy products and cooking gas have run out.

Gaza's population is entirely dependent on goods brought in via crossing points with Israel, such as the Karni crossing, which is the main entry point for commercial goods. It is therefore essential that the crossings be open in order to allow the importation of medicine, food and other essential items, such as cooking gas.


Throughout Gaza, residents remain in fear of more strikes, with most parents refusing to let their children go outside.

A sewerage installation in Bet Hanoun has been damaged. This has resulted in a major sewage leak, threatening the water system in the area. The water supply to nearby homes has been cut off until repair work can be carried out.


Hospitals in Gaza are still extremely busy treating people injured by the bombardment. They have made new, urgent requests for medicines and medica l supplies, which the ICRC will try to deliver in the coming days.

Patients are being discharged as quickly as possible in order to free up new beds. This could have a long-term impact on people who need medical follow-up.

Medical staff are working overtime and must also cope with fears for their own safety and that of their families. Because of shelling nearby, the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) has had to evacuate some of its facilities and the Khaleel Al Wazeer primary health care centre.

  ICRC activities

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  • Surgical supplies for treating between 300 and 400 war wounded were distributed to eight hospitals on Tuesday. Another shipment to treat 500 more war wounded arrived late on Tuesday night in Tel Aviv. This will be transported into Gaza as soon as possible. The supplies include adrenaline, anaesthetics, wound dressings, gloves, needles, syringes, drainage tubes, suture sets, intravenous fluids and chest tubes  

  • The ICRC has helped import various medicines for PRCS hospitals and clinics, and has helped repair a generator at the PRCS hospital. Due to the limited electricity supply, most hospitals are operating almost entirely on generators.  

  • Food parcels and plastic sheeting were also delivered to Shifa hospital to cover windows blown out by nearby bombardments.  

  • Ambulances donated by the Qatari Red Crescent have been transporting seriously ill patients to Rafah. As of Tuesday evening, 50 patients, including eight intensive care patients, had been transferred to Egypt through the Rafah border crossing, but many more critically wounded people still need specialized treatment abroad.   National Red Crescent and Red Cross Society activities


  • Workers and volunteers from the Palestine Red Crescent Society continue their lifesaving activities under very difficult circumstances.  

  • The provision of relief items such as generators has been coordinated through the Egyptian Red Crescent, with items arriving from Qatar, Libya and Saudi Arabia. These relief items are expected to enter Gaza through Rafah and will help meet some of the hospitals’ most urgent needs.  
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  • Medical teams from the Qatari and Iranian Red Crescent Societies are on stand-by in Egypt  

  • The Kuwait Red Crescent Society was expected to fly 10 tonnes of relief items to Egypt on Wednesday.  
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)