|21-12-2006 06/16 |
Gaza – ICRC Bulletin No. 16 / 2006
Latest report on ICRC activities in the field
The situation in Gaza sharply deteriorated in the past week, before a truce was announced in the evening of 19 December. According to hospital statistics, armed violence involving Palestinian groups has left six civilians dead and 52 injured since 11 December. These people – several of whom were children – took no part in the fighting but were caught in the crossfire. In the morning of 19 December members of security services fought around and inside Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, hampering the normal functioning of medical facilities.
In the West Bank town of Ramallah, more than 30 people were wounded in clashes on 14 December.
Restrictions on movement are a recurring problem for many Palestinians, especially those living in the northern and central parts of the West Bank. On 10 December severe restrictions were imposed around Ramallah, causing long delays for people trying to pass through the area. Residents of Qalqilya and Salfit districts faced problems at checkpoints in several locations throughout the week. Restrictions on movement in Tulkarem district and between Nablus and the villages of that district remain largely unpredictable. On at least two occasions during the past week, hundreds of cars were trapped between flying checkpoints set up by the Israeli military on main roads connecting Nablus with the northern West Bank. At many checkpoints in Jenin and Tubas, vehicles were backed up in long queues, often far into the night.
Staff resumed work in the health facilities run by the Palestinian Authority after the Ministry of Finance paid their back salaries for October and November on 16 December, thus fulfilling the terms of its agreement with the unions. Hospitals and primary health-care centres are now receiving patients and providing health services again.
Palestinian government health staff went on strike on 23 August to protest the non-payment of salaries for six months, depriving many people of essential health services. The strike mainly affected the poor, who could not afford to pay fees in private and charitable hospitals. In Gaza, support for the strike was weaker than in the West Bank and health services there continued to function.
Over the past week, the ICRC's family visit programme has enabled more than 5,000 family members from the Palestinian territories, including more than 500 from the Gaza Strip, to visit their relatives held in Israeli prisons.
During the recent armed violence, the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) distributed surgical and emergency medical kits to hospitals and emergency health services. The PRCS continued to run its medical facilities and transport patients to hospitals for treatment.
The ICRC has been maintaining its support for central medical stores in Gaza and the West Bank, providing them with drugs and disposables for emergency services. After the full resumption of work in health-care facilities, there will be a significant need for drugs and disposables to treat patients who have been waiting for services to restart. After the ICRC report Declining Governmental Health Service Provision in the West Bank was published on 15 November, ICRC health teams visited 10 surgical hospitals run by the Ministry of Health to review the situation. In addition, the ICRC collected information from all PRCS hospitals, the UNWRA hospital and various other private and charitable hospitals, including the six East Jerusalem hospitals, so that it could better understand the health-care situation in the Palestinian territories and prepare an effective response.
The ICRC has 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 in its public statements, the ICRC has urged those holding the soldier to treat him humanely, to respect his life and dignity and to allow him to communicate with his family.
Since the beginning of 2006, the ICRC has:
visited over 10,000 people held by the Israeli and Palestinian authorities;
enabled over 215,000 people from Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem to visit relatives detained in Israeli prisons;
forwarded over 19,000 Red Cross messages (brief personal messages to relatives made otherwise unreachable by armed conflict) between detainees and their immediate families;
during the recent health-care strike, monitored the situation in government surgical hospitals in Gaza and the West Bank and provided central medical stores with life-saving medicines and disposables to help these hospitals to continue to provide 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 whenever necessary, 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 were destroyed or damaged;
provided back-up power generators and fuel, and set up, extended or repaired water-supply systems serving over 134,000 people, particularly those affected by military operations in Gaza;
provided monthly food parcels for some 1,800 families in the old town of Hebron, particularly those unable to leave their homes because of closures (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
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