On Monday, 17 May 2004 (11:00pm), the Israeli Army using tanks, bulldozers and Apache Helicopters for air cover, reinvaded Rafah area in the Gaza Strip. This Israeli military operation has so far resulted in the death of seventeen Palestinians and more than thirty injuries, some in critical condition.
PRCS ambulances were subjected to direct Israeli Army gunfire thus severely restricting their ability to evacuate injuries from the area. Two Israeli Army tanks coming towards it cornered one of the ambulances. Unable to leave the area, the medics in the ambulance were forced to flee for their safety. The medics are presently held up in one of the nearby homes and are unable to get back to base due to the intensity of gunfire. The Israeli Army has effectively sealed off the Rafah area and is denying ambulances access to transfer the wounded to nearby hospitals.
Since 11 May 2004, the Israeli military has continued to destroy houses, shops, mosques, and facilities, in addition to electrical and sanitation infrastructure. As a result, hundreds of families have become homeless.
The Emergency Medical Services and the Disaster Management Unit raised their response capacity to the maximum level in the abovementioned area.
The PRCS Disaster Management Unit (DMU) and PRCS volunteers, in coordination with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have responded to the needs of many families who lost their homes. Water, tents, blankets, mattresses, pillows, kitchen sets, gas cookers, hygienic kits, and other essential items were delivered to the victims.
These Israeli Army measures have resulted in severe humanitarian consequences in terms of civilian deaths, injuries, internal displacement of residents, and impeding the work of emergency medical services teams, all of which constitute violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention (Protection of Civilians) and its Additional First Protocol, which are legally applied to the occupied Palestinian territories.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society appeals to the international community and States Parties to the Geneva Conventions to call upon Israeli to cease its collective punishment measures against civilians and to respect and protect the humanitarian mission of medical services teams by allowing access to evacuate the wounded.