OPT: Gaza and West Bank - ICRC Bulletin No. 24 / 2007

Latest report on ICRC activities

ICRC surgical team to assist staff at Shifa Hospital

An ICRC surgeon and anaesthetist have arrived in Gaza to assist medical staff at Shifa Hospital. They will shortly be joined by a second surgeon and an operating theatre nurse. The ICRC surgical team will focus on treating people wounded in last week's fighting. Over 500 people have been receiving treatment in Gaza's hospitals following the clashes.

"This is a medical emergency and we are doing what we can to cover the needs in Gaza's hospitals," said Christoph Harnisch, head of the ICRC's delegation for Israel and the Palestinian territories. "But that is only part of the problem. Even before the events of last week, the situation in Gaza was difficult."

Currently, the ICRC's main concern in Gaza is to help medical facilities cope with the large number of wounded people, which has severely stretched resources, including personnel, drugs and other medical supplies. In addition, important medical equipment has broken down.

"The staff at Shifa Hospital have been working around the clock since the fighting started," said Eileen Daly, the ICRC's medical coordinator for the West Bank and Gaza. "They have been nothing short of heroic. Our surgical team will help relieve the pressure on them by treating injuries caused by weapons."

Further evacuations of critically wounded people to Israeli hospitals

On Thursday, the ICRC helped evacuate to Israeli hospitals five more wounded people requiring highly sophisticated treatment not available in Gaza. Since 20 June, 12 people wounded in the fighting and one child suffering from leukaemia have been transferred to Israel through the Erez checkpoint.

An ICRC specialist in emergency medical services has been dispatched to Gaza to help coordinate these transfers. The ICRC is acting as an intermediary between health officials in Gaza and the Israeli authorities.

"There are still many more wounded who need to be transferred," Ms Daly explained. "There are also many people suffering from chronic ailments such as cancer and renal diseases who require treatment not available in Gaza. It has been a week now since the fighting stopped, but only a few individuals have been allowed out for treatment."

The ICRC has been providing medicines such as antibiotics and analgesics, as well as dressing materials and other surgical supplies, since the beginning of the fighting. One truckload of surgical supplies and three smaller vehicles carrying antibiotics and other medicines have reached Gaza over the past week.

Humanitarian aid alone cannot alleviate Gaza crisis

There is enough food in Gaza's stores to last several weeks. However, perishable goods like meat and dairy products, which are normally imported from Israel or the West Bank, are in short supply.

"The almost complete closure of crossing points in and out of Gaza and the lack of contact between the authorities on both sides is aggravating a situation that cannot be dealt with by providing humanitarian assistance alone," said Mr Harnisch. "Long-term economic aid and commercial exchanges are the only sustainable ways of helping the people of Gaza."

The delivery of gasoline and fuel from Israel has resumed. There have been no interruptions of the water and electricity supply. Some transmission facilities in Gaza were damaged in the fighting but most of them have since been repaired.

The ICRC has resumed its protection activities, collecting information on alleged violations of international humanitarian law, and will be raising its concerns with the appropriate authorities. The organization has also resumed its visits to Palestinian places of detention in the Gaza Strip. It has been promised the full cooperation of Gaza authorities in both areas.

For further information, please contact:
Dorothea Krimitsas, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 22 730 25 90 or +41 79 251 93 18
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
Iyad Nasr, ICRC Gaza, tel. +972 8 282 2644 +972 59 960 30 15
Yael Segev-Eytan, ICRC Tel Aviv, tel. +972 3 524 52 86 or +972 52 275 75 17
or visit our website : www.icrc.org