OPT: Gaza - ICRC Bulletin No. 21 / 2007

Situation Report
Originally published
Situation remains very tense

Over the past few days fighting has erupted at various times in all sectors of the Gaza Strip. In Gaza City, clashes were continuing in some locations on 14 June, including the area around Shifa Hospital and around Al Quds Hospital, run by the Palestine Red Crescent Society. In the southern towns of Khan Younis and Rafah, heavy fighting was reported late on 13 June, with militants occupying positions at European Hospital and Nassar Hospital.

"Over the past few days, people here have found it difficult and sometimes impossible to leave their homes for basic supplies," said Claudia Locher, deputy head of the ICRC's sub-delegation in Gaza. "And with fighting breaking out and stopping again suddenly, taking injured people to hospital is a very risky operation." It was also, she added, dangerous for medical staff to travel between their homes and work.

On the basis of figures provided by hospitals and emergency services on 13 June, the ICRC estimates that over 550 people have been injured and some 60 killed in the last few days.

ICRC coordinates medical evacuations

ICRC expatriate and locally recruited staff are continuing to work in Gaza, mainly from their premises. Whenever possible, locally hired staff have made limited movements within Gaza City.

Most of the ICRC's efforts over the past few days have been aimed at coordinating matters with the medical authorities, ambulance services and the various factions to allow medical and other humanitarian evacuations as well as the delivery of medical supplies and the movement of personnel to and from medical facilities.

Injured people have been taken to hospital and bodies of the dead removed. Transfers from hospital to hospital have also been organized. In one case, eight patients in critical condition were transferred in five ambulances from Shifa Hospital to Al Quds Hospital in Gaza City. The ICRC also facilitated the evacuation of families trapped in buildings under attack.

In addition, the ICRC is currently helping the Palestine Red Crescent with the transfer blood from Ramallah to Gaza.

On 12 and 13 June, the ICRC also facilitated the delivery of bread from the World Food Programme to hospitals in Gaza City and the north.

Hospitals stretched to their capacity

A number of hospitals are being stretched to their capacity. At Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, for example, the same staff have been on duty for the last three days owing to the lack of replacements. The ICRC has distributed medical supplies, including wound-dressing kits, to hospitals and other medical services.

All factions have recognized the ICRC's humanitarian role, in particular that of facilitator for medical evacuations.

The ICRC is reminding all parties, both in direct contacts and through the local media, of the need to refrain from acts of violence against medical facilities, their patients and their staff. Ambulances must be allowed to reach the victims and transport them to hospital. Medical facilities must not be used for belligerent purposes.

Every precaution must be taken to ensure that persons not, or no longer, taking part in hostilities are spared. In particular, the ICRC reminds all concerned that extra-judicial killings are prohibited.

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

or visit our website: www.icrc.org