GENEVA — The director of operations of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Pierre Krähenbühl, has just ended a week-long visit to Israel and the occupied and autonomous Palestinian territories.
At a time of increased violence and economic hardship, Mr Krähenbühlgained a first-hand impression of the situation in humanitarian terms and the ICRC’s response to humanitarian needs throughout the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
During meetings with senior officials of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as with the chairman of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian minister of foreign affairs, Mr Krähenbühl conveyed the ICRC’s concern about the deteriorating situation. He warned of a possible crisis in the Palestinian territories from a humanitarian and security viewpoint should the newly elected Palestinian Authority become unable to provide the population with basic services and to ensure law and order.
This situation could result in particular from the decision to withhold funds and assistance from the Palestinian Authority.
“While the ICRC stands ready to step up its activities to help the Palestinian population,” Mr Krähenbühlsaid, “neither the ICRC nor any other humanitarian organization can replace the authorities in their role as provider of public services.”
Under International Humanitarian Law (IHL), it is the responsibility of the State of Israel to ensure that the basic needs of the civilian population in the occupied territories are met. These needs include foodstuffs, medical supplies, means of shelter and other essentials. Moreover, the law requires all States party to the Geneva Conventions to allow the free passage of essential humanitarian supplies.
In his meetings with the Israeli and Palestinian authorities, Mr Krähenbühl also stressed the crucial importance of achieving progress in implementing the agreement reached in December of last year between the Palestine Red Crescent Society and the Magen David Adom, with a view to the forthcoming International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent scheduled for this June.