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

14-12-2006  ICRC News 15/06 
Gaza – ICRC Bulletin No. 15 / 2006
Latest report on ICRC activities in the field

General situation

The killing of four people, including three children aged six to nine, on 11 December by unidentified gunmen in Gaza City has exacerbated tension in the streets and heightened
the general impression of lawlessness in the Gaza Strip. On 14 December, the security situation further deteriorated in the Gaza Strip.

Gradual improvement in access to health care in the West Bank

On 10 December, health-care workers suspended their strike after the Palestinian Authority, agreed to pay two months' back wages. As a result, several hospitals and primary health-care clinics were re-opened.

Access to health care in government-run hospitals and clinics has been severely curtailed since August 2006, when staff went on strike to protest the non-payment of wages for six months. Only emergency cases were admitted. The poor, who cannot pay for private care, have been the hardest hit.

Restrictions affecting farmers and fishermen

Crossing points were open at Sufa (for construction materials), Karni (for commercial traffic in both directions), and Erez (for international workers and humanitarian emergencies).

In the central Gaza Strip, fishermen's access to the sea continued to be restricted to a maximum of eight nautical miles from the shore. In the southern Gaza Strip, the maximum distance was three nautical miles. Productivity in the fishing industry dropped as a result.

In Nablus and Bethlehem, restrictions on movement were loosened, with the main road between Nablus and the northern West Bank open to traffic for most of the past week. However, lawlessness in Nablus has been on the rise.

Although the olive harvest has begun in the Palestinian territories, some farmers have been finding it difficult to access their land near Israeli settlements. In Ramallah district, the Israeli army prevented farmers from tending their olive groves of 500 trees, citing the danger of clashes between Palestinians and settlers.

    Red Cross / Red Crescent activities

    Continued assistance in the health sector

    The ICRC continued to supply central medical stores with drugs and disposables, especially in Gaza, to meet an expected increase in demand. It also supported the medical activities of the Palestine Red Crescent Society, the second largest Palestinian health-care provider in the territories.

    Since the strike in the health sector began, the ICRC has been monitoring the situation in government surgical hospitals in Gaza and the West Bank, providing life-saving medicines and disposables to help these hospitals provide essential emergency services.

    In Bethlehem district, the ICRC rehabilitated six water cisterns in Masarah, supplying 250 people. This project employed a number of Palestinian workers for 60 days. The ICRC also distributed animal feed to 80 beneficiaries in several villages.

    In Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the ICRC family-visit programme continued, enabling hundreds of Palestinians to visit their relatives held in Israeli places of detention.

    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.

    Since the beginning of 2006, the ICRC has:
    · visited over 9,200 people held by the Israeli and Palestinian authorities;
    · enabled over 210,000 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;
    · supported the emergency services and other essential medical activities 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;
    · in the old town of Hebron, provided monthly food parcels for some 1,800 families, 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 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 mobile +41 79 251 93 18
    Marcin Monko, ICRC Jerusalem, tel. +972 2 582 88 45 or mobile + 972 52 601 91 50
    Bana Sayeh, ICRC Jerusalem, tel. +972 2 582 88 45 or mobile +972 52 601 91 48

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