International Committee of the Red Cross 23 May 2004
The ICRC has been particularly active in Rafah since a large-scale Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operation began there on 17 May. The organization formed a special operational unit to help to ensure availability of health care and water and to respond to other needs arising from the destruction of houses.
The ICRC is coordinating the safe passage of Palestine Red Crescent Society ambulances through various Rafah military checkpoints with the IDF around the clock. In addition, following an assessment of all hospitals serving the Rafah area on 17 and 18 May, an ICRC medical team delivered surgery kits for 200 war-wounded patients while the Palestine Red Crescent set up an advanced medical post near Al Najjar Hospital.
In the past few days, the ICRC has focused its attention on Tal Al Sultan and Brazil, the two Rafah areas whose population and infrastructure have been most affected by the current military operation.
On 21 May, the ICRC coordinated with the IDF the escort of a Rafah municipality and United Nations Relief and Works Agency convoy bringing tens of thousands of litres of water to the people of Tal Al Sultan, until then completely cut off from the rest of the city. Later on the same day, in cooperation with several other humanitarian organizations, the ICRC led a second convoy bringing food and additional water to the besieged population.
Through the ICRC’s efforts, three Rafah municipality workers were authorized to enter Tal Al Sultan on 20 May and carry out emergency repairs that restored the water supply to over 100,000 Rafah residents. On 23 May, an ICRC water and habitat engineer and Rafah municipality technicians entered the area and helped to reactivate two wells supplying 25,000 persons with clean water. The ICRC is currently helping the municipality to assess the state of its sewage, water, and electricity systems and to proceed with much-needed repairs.
Since the beginning of the crisis, over 1,200 Brazil residents affected by house destructions have benefited from relief kits distributed to several neighbourhood committees by the ICRC and the Palestine Red Crescent. These kits include hygiene items, blankets, stoves, cooking utensils, and other basic necessities.
The ICRC is continuing to monitor the humanitarian situation throughout Rafah and stands ready to respond to further emergencies.
Since the beginning of the current crisis, the ICRC has been in constant dialogue with the Palestinian and Israeli authorities so as to facilitate its humanitarian work as well as that of the Palestine Red Crescent and other humanitarian organizations active in Rafah.
For more information, please contact Simon Schorno, ICRC Jerusalem, tel. ++972 52 956 371; Iyad Nasr, ICRC Gaza, tel. ++972 82 828 874; Uriel Massad, ICRC Tel Aviv, tel. ++972 64 681 455.