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Source: International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
8 December 2006

8-12-2006  ICRC News 14/06 
West Bank and Gaza – ICRC Bulletin No. 14 / 2006
Latest report on ICRC activities in the field

General situation

The daily life of Palestinians living in Gaza continues to be affected by armed violence among various Palestinian groups, compounded by ever-increasing lawlessness.

The ceasefire between the Israeli military and Palestinian armed groups announced on 26 November resulted in an easing of restrictions on the movement of goods to and from Gaza, with all three crossing points open. There was, however, no improvement in the movement of Palestinians from Gaza into Israel. The Rafah crossing to Egypt remained open only one day a week.

Decline in health care has tragic consequences

In the West Bank, the strike by health-care staff has continued to affect access to care, with hospitals functioning at less than 30 percent of their capacity. The ICRC has already documented the tragic consequences that the interruption of health services has had on a population already hit hard by the overall economic decline (see ICRC reports of 15 and 21 November).

The latest data available to the ICRC reveals further decline and an unprecedented health crisis. No diagnostic services are available and no specialists are working. The shutting down of all primary health-care centres has put a halt to all preventative and curative health care. For example, women are not being screened for high-risk pregnancies and there is neither monitoring of chronic illnesses nor dispensing of medicines. Some charitable and private hospitals continue to function for fee-paying patients, which means that the poor are being literally turned away from any access to health care.

Daily life disrupted by restrictions on movement in northern West Bank

Restrictions on the movement of persons and vehicles to and from Nablus and ever-longer waiting times at military checkpoints are disrupting the daily life of residents of the northern West Bank. In recent days, a key road connecting Nablus with points north was opened to private traffic, thus easing the movement of people and goods.

ICRC and other Red Cross / Red Crescent activities


Over the past week, the ICRC has aided families affected by military operations carried out in the last month. Nineteen families whose houses had been destroyed following incursions by the Israeli army in Beit Hanoun and Jabalia received tarpaulins, mattresses, blankets and other essential household items, while 20 more families received emergency food parcels and kits containing essential hygiene items.

The ICRC further donated and installed 14 plastic water tanks in Beit Hanoun for families directly affected by the military operations carried out by the Israel Defense Forces on 8 November, which killed at least 18 civilians.

In the framework of a project aimed at revitalizing fishing off the Gaza coast, the ICRC has helped pay for the upgrading of seven fishing boats. The financial situation of Palestinian fishermen has been severely affected by repeated and prolonged restrictions on their vessels' movements in recent months.

Over the past week, the ICRC in Gaza has facilitated visits by over 250 Gaza residents to family members held in 10 Israeli places of detention.

The ICRC is maintaining its contacts with the authorities and with various Palestinian groups, and constantly reiterates its request to gain access to the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Through these contacts and its public statements, the ICRC urges those holding the soldier to treat him humanely, to respect his life and dignity, and to allow him to communicate with his family.

West Bank

During the past week, the ICRC intervened on behalf of Palestinian farmers prevented by the Israeli authorities from accessing their land in the districts of Jericho, Nablus, and Tulkarem. In Tulkarem, a recent ICRC survey showed that farmers with no regular access to their olive groves had suffered a 60 percent drop in production compared with those able to regularly tend their fields.

In order to alleviate the consequences of the strike in the health-care sector, the ICRC also delivered consignments of medicines and disposables for emergency life-saving surgery. It assisted the Palestinian Ministry of Health by transporting life-saving medicines from Ramallah to Gaza, and it continued to liaise with other international organizations and to monitor access by the population to essential emergency services in hospitals throughout the West Bank.

As a means of ensuring access to clean water for the local population, the ICRC repaired and upgraded water-supply networks and carried out maintenance on well pumps in the districts of Qalqiya and Hebron and in the Jordan Valley.

In Salfit and Bethlehem districts, delegates distributed essential household items to families whose houses had been destroyed.

In addition, the ICRC enabled over 4,400 people from the West Bank to visit relatives held in Israeli places of detention.

Since the beginning of 2006, the ICRC has:

· visited over 9,200 persons held by the Israeli and Palestinian authorities
· enabled over 205,000 people from Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the occupied Golan to visit relatives detained in Israeli prisons
· forwarded over 18,500 Red Cross messages (brief personal messages to relatives made otherwise unreachable by armed conflict) between detainees and their immediate families
· since the health-care strike began, monitored the situation in government surgical hospitals in Gaza and the West Bank, while supporting 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 movements by that Society's ambulances when facilitation was needed, in particular during Israeli military incursions
· distributed tarpaulins, mattresses, blankets and other essential household items including tents (when required) to more than 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 benefiting 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", i.e. preventing residents from leaving their homes, even to seek health care (over 37,200 food parcels and some 5,300 hygiene kits have been distributed so far, as well as over 157 metric tonnes of wheat flour for 1,250 vulnerable families)
· operated livelihood-support programmes that have enabled 762 households to develop new ways of generating income despite restrictions on movement imposed by closures, 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
Bana Sayeh, ICRC Jerusalem, tel +972 2 582 88 45 or +972 52 601 91 48 Marcin Monko, ICRC Jerusalem, tel +972 2 582 88 45 or + 972 52 601 91 50

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