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Source: International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
12 January 2007

12-01-2007  ICRC News  
Gaza - West Bank – ICRC Bulletin No. 17 / 2007
Latest report on ICRC activities in the field

General situation

The Palestinian population continued to bear the consequences of the fighting between Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip, which has intensified and spread to the West Bank in the last few days. Since 3 January, 20 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip alone – including at least two civilians – and more than 50 wounded.

Street violence and the growing number of abductions also contributed to the feeling of insecurity among the population. A Peruvian journalist abducted in Gaza City on 1 January 2007 was released after six days of captivity. The deteriorating security situation made humanitarian work increasingly difficult.

As a result of a military operation carried out by the Israeli army on 4 January, four people were killed and 34 injured in the centre of Ramallah.

Closures and other restrictions on movement continued to affect the daily lives of Palestinians. Getting to school or to work, seeing a doctor or simply doing the shopping has become increasingly difficult.

In the West Bank, the number of checkpoints and roadblocks remained unchanged despite news of a possible easing of restrictions on movement for the residents. There was no significant reduction in closures in the northern West Bank, especially in Nablus and Tulkarem districts, which are the areas most severely affected by the measure.

Many more farmers found it difficult to access their land. In the West Bank, some 100,000 Palestinian families depend to some extent on the olive harvest for their livelihood. According to ICRC estimates, the productivity of the olive trees located behind the West Bank Barrier, where it was impossible to tend the orchards, has dropped in certain cases by up to 80 per cent.

Since 30 December, the Rafah terminal between Gaza and Egypt, in the Gaza Strip, has been open for Palestinians returning from the Hajj pilgrimage for only three days. Among the 1.4 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, fewer than 1,000 can cross into Israel each week. About half of them are family members who, under the ICRC's family visits programme, are going to see relatives held in Israeli prisons.

ICRC activities

Despite the difficult situation in the Gaza Strip, the ICRC maintained its presence and continued its activities.

Over the past week, the ICRC organized four family visits allowing more than 500 Palestinian family members to see their relatives held in Israeli prisons. On the eve of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, the ICRC distributed 11 tonnes of baklava cakes to more than 12,500 Palestinian detainees held in Israeli prisons. The cakes were provided by the Palestinian Authority and the ICRC ensured their transport to Israeli prisons. Baklava cakes were also provided in a number of prisons in the Palestinian territories.

By regularly monitoring medical stocks in eight public surgical hospitals in the Palestinian territories, the ICRC ensured that they were adquately supplied with drugs and disposables for over 1,500 patients.

Through a social programme for young graduates of vocational schools, the ICRC provided tools for various professionals, such as plumbers or carpenters, so that they could start up sustainable businesses. Over recent weeks, 50 of the most vulnerable unemployed graduates benefited from the programme.

The ICRC maintained its contacts with the authorities and with various Palestinian groups, and constantly reiterated its request to see the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Through these contacts and its public statements, the ICRC urged those holding the soldier to treat him humanely, to respect his life and dignity and to allow him to communicate with his family.

In 2006, the ICRC:

  • enabled over 220,000 people from Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem to visit relatives detained in Israeli prisons;
  • individually monitored the situation of close to 20,000 people held in Israeli places of detention;
  • forwarded over 20,000 Red Cross messages (brief personal messages to relatives made otherwise unreachable by armed conflict) between detainees and their immediate families, and made several thousand phone calls to family members to inform them of the whereabouts and welfare of detained relatives;
  • during the health-care strike, monitored the situation in government surgical hospitals in Gaza and the West Bank, while supplying the central medical stores with life-saving medicines and disposables to help these hospitals continue providing essential emergency services;
  • supported the emergency services and other essential medical services of the Palestine Red Crescent Society, while facilitating movement by the Society's ambulances when necessary, in particular during Israeli military incursions;
  • distributed tarpaulins, mattresses, blankets and other essential household items, including tents when required, to over 1,000 families whose houses had been destroyed or damaged;
  • provided back-up power generators and fuel, and set up, extended or repaired water-supply systems for over 134,000 people, particularly those affected by military operations in Gaza;
  • in the old town of Hebron, provided monthly food parcels for some 1,800 families, particularly those affected by "strict closures" which prevent residents from leaving their homes (over 37,200 food parcels and some 5,300 hygiene kits were distributed, along with over 157 tonnes of wheat flour for 1,250 vulnerable families);
  • operated livelihood-support programmes that enabled more than 800 households to develop new ways of generating income despite restrictions on movement imposed by the closures, the settlements or the West Bank Barrier.

For further information, please contact:
Dorothea Krimitsas, ICRC Geneva, tel +41 22 730 25 90 or +41 79 251 93 18
Marcin Monko, ICRC Jerusalem, tel +972 2 582 88 45 or +972 52 601 91 50
Bana Sayeh, ICRC Jerusalem, tel +972 2 582 88 45 or +972 52 601 91 48

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