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Israel and the occupied territories: activities in 2012

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01-03-2013 Operational Update

The ICRC continues to address the humanitarian consequences of Israeli policies in the occupied territories and to impress upon the Palestinian authorities and armed groups the need to respect civilians and medical personnel at all times. An update on these and other activities in 2012.

International efforts to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, including talks facilitated by Jordan at the beginning of 2012, failed to resolve the deadlock, with both parties firmly sticking to their positions. Israel continued to call for direct negotiations without preconditions, whereas the Palestinian Authority insisted on a freeze of settlements in the West Bank as a precondition for resuming negotiations.

In November, the United Nations General Assembly recognized Palestine as a non-member State, a move supported by a large majority of States, including several from the European Union. Both Israel and the United States denounced the unilateral move and declared it detrimental to the re-launch of the peace process.

November was also marked by the largest escalation of violence between Israel and the Gaza Strip since 2008-2009. The week-long confrontation left 173 Palestinians and four Israelis dead, in addition to hundreds of wounded, mainly on the Palestinian side. The cease-fire agreement brokered by Egypt has reduced tension in the area for the time being. Meanwhile, internal reconciliation continued to elude Hamas and Fatah leaders despite Egyptian mediation efforts and the rapprochement witnessed in recent talks. Hamas, in control of the Gaza Strip, and Fatah remained divided, but year-end developments reportedly gave the two parties a new impetus for better relations.

In the West Bank, Palestinian farmers still faced difficulty obtaining access to their lands near the security barrier and settlements; settler violence against Palestinians and their property continued to be reported. The Palestinian Authority faced economic difficulties, which adversely affected the delivery of basic services. This, in turn, led to widespread protests by Palestinians against perceived failings of the Palestinian Authority to create economically viable institutions. An energy crisis in the Gaza Strip at the beginning of the year led to long power outages that severely hindered medical and transport services.

ICRC response during latest military operations

Following the week-long military operations that took place in the Gaza Strip at the end of November, ICRC staff on the ground made a special effort to collect information on the conduct of hostilities. Their findings constitute the basis for one-on-one dialogue with the authorities in Israel and Gaza on respect for the rules of international humanitarian law.

The ICRC worked in cooperation with its partners in the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement – the Palestine Red Crescent Society and Magen David Adom in Israel – to respond to humanitarian needs. In Gaza, Palestine Red Crescent ambulances evacuated the wounded to treatment facilities, and joint ICRC/Palestine Red Crescent teams provided household essentials and shelter materials for families whose houses had been damaged or destroyed. Through dialogue with the Israeli authorities the ICRC also worked to ensure that Palestine Red Crescent ambulances could operate in safety and have access to all those requiring urgent medical services. In Israel, together with Magen David Adom, the ICRC visited violence-affected areas. The ICRC also provided financial support for Magen David Adom.

Emergency aid, improved sanitary conditions and support for hospitals

In 2012, the ICRC continued to ease the situation of the Palestinians hardest hit by the conflict and the occupation. Together with the Palestine Red Crescent, we distributed emergency aid to people whose houses had been destroyed and to other particularly needy people. In the southern West Bank town of Hebron, where the ICRC had provided impoverished communities with monthly food rations for 10 years, the organization re-oriented its activities to support the livelihoods of the inhabitants.

People throughout the Palestinian territory benefited from the distribution of seed and tools, cash-for-work activities involving improvements in community infrastructure, and other initiatives. The ICRC's interactions with the Israeli authorities resulted in facilitated access for farmers to their land and for fishermen to fishing areas and thereby secured vital sources of income.

Working closely with the Palestinian Water Authority and the Costal Municipal Water Utilities, the ICRC helped improve water supplies and sanitation for Palestinians by upgrading sanitary facilities in the Gaza Strip and water supply schemes in poorly served West Bank communities. The ICRC maintained its focus on long-term projects that have a lasting impact on public health.

To ensure that medical services in the Palestinian territory would be provided without interruption, the ICRC continued its donation of supplies, equipment, spare parts and, when needed, fuel to hospitals in the Gaza Strip adversely affected by import restrictions and by the Palestinian Authority's ongoing financial crisis. In addition, it renovated and otherwise upgraded hospital facilities. It provided the Palestine Red Crescent with financial support for its emergency medical services, which operate throughout the Palestinian territory. In addition, the ICRC helped defray maintenance costs at 62 stations of the emergency medical services run by Gaza’s health authorities, and upgraded five ambulances for the civil defence and five for the military medical services. In Israel, the emergency medical services of Magen David Adom also received ICRC support.

Visits to around 24,000 detainees

In 2012, the ICRC visited over 20,600 detainees held by Israel and around 3,350 held by the Palestinian authorities. The visits, which were conducted in accordance with the ICRC’s standard procedures, monitored the treatment and living conditions of detainees to make sure they met the applicable international rules and internationally recognized standards. The ICRC's findings were shared confidentially with the detaining authorities.

The ICRC also monitored the treatment of Palestinian detainees on hunger strike. In addition, it made arrangements enabling thousands of detainees to receive visits from their relatives. In July, visits to detainees by family members from the Gaza Strip resumed after a five-year interruption.

Promotion of international humanitarian law

The ICRC continued to promote international humanitarian law and humanitarian principles among the authorities, weapon bearers and other groups, and within civil society. The aim was to foster acceptance of and support for the activities of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and to raise awareness of the ICRC's mandate to protect and assist victims of armed conflict.

Together with other Movement partners, the ICRC also helped to ensure that the Palestine Red Crescent and Magen David Adom had the capabilities and resources needed to effectively respond to an array of humanitarian needs.