Between 10 and 19 May, continuous and often intense clashes between Palestinian factions left over 50 people dead. An estimated 200 to 400 were wounded, including many bystanders. A ceasefire brokered by the Egyptian government took effect on the afternoon of 19 May. There have been isolated incidents since then, however, and the situation remains tense. Roadblocks have been placed around strategically sensitive areas in Gaza City.
A large number of people were also abducted during the clashes. Although most were set free when the ceasefire took effect, there were repeated reports of people being shot in the legs before their release.
A few attacks on ambulances were reported, including one in which a Palestinian Medical Relief volunteer was critically injured and later died. However, ambulances were able to move about more freely than at the beginning of the year and there were few reports of fighting or armed occupation involving medical facilities.
Starting on 15 May rocket attacks on the Israeli town of Sderot and surrounding communities increased dramatically, killing one civilian on 21 May and another on 27 May. The Magen David Adom (MDA) reported that it had treated more than 20 people for physical injuries and over 200 for anxiety following the rocket attacks.
Soon after the escalation in rocket attacks, Israeli forces moved up to the fence surrounding Gaza and in the north penetrated several hundred metres into the Strip. At the same time, the Israeli air force increased its strikes against Hamas installations in Gaza City. It also targeted vehicles and people suspected of taking part in rocket attacks, as well as buildings the Israelis say were used in the manufacture or storage of rockets. More than 40 people were reportedly killed in the strikes, including four minors, and over 140 injured, including at least 20 civilians.
ICRC activities in Gaza
Throughout the clashes and air strikes, ICRC local and expatriate staff in Gaza continued to provide assistance for those in need. In particular, they:
worked with the leaders and local commanders of different Palestinian factions to ensure that the sick and wounded could be evacuated
established an ad-hoc ambulance protocol with the various security forces in Gaza to ensure that Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) ambulances could reach the sick and wounded
transported blood supplies and medical equipment, including spare parts and X-ray film, into Gaza
distributed dressing sets, surgical kits and other emergency supplies to medical services and hospitals
facilitated the move of the main PRCS ambulance dispatch centre to a safer location so that it could continue to provide emergency services for the population of Gaza
continued to monitor food and water supplies, particularly in Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya, where Israeli incursions had taken place, and delivered food parcels to about 20 needy families in that area
helped repair critical sewage pipes and water lines that had been damaged in the fighting
continued to ensure that there was enough fuel available for medical facilities and water and wastewater pumping systems serving the population of Gaza
arranged with Israeli military authorities for farmers who were working in the north-eastern sector of Gaza to leave their fields safely when the Israeli incursions began
During this period the ICRC also maintained regular contact with the Magen David Adom in Sderot. On 21 May an ICRC delegation from Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem and Gaza paid an official visit to their MDA colleagues in Sderot.
On 16 May the ICRC issued a statement to the Israeli, Palestinian and international media deploring violence against civilians in Gaza and Sderot and calling on all sides to ensure that civilians were spared.
For further information, please contact:
Vincent Lusser, ICRC Geneva, +41 22 730
24 26 or +41 79 217 32 64
Bernard Barrett, 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