13 January 2009
REUTERS/Suhaib Salem/courtesy www.alertnet.orgThe International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is extremely concerned about the hostilities in Gaza and the tragic impact on its population. Hundreds of civilians are dead and many more are injured; others have had to flee their homes but are caught in the fighting.
The Movement deplores the fact that many wounded people have been abandoned and left to suffer alone, unable to reach hospitals and inaccessible to ambulances and medical workers. Some wounded have even died because ambulances did not receive the required clearances to reach them in time.
We call on the involved parties, in particular Israel, to remove restrictions on medical teams so they can do their life-saving work. We would like to reaffirm that under international humanitarian law all parties concerned have a duty to collect, care for and evacuate the wounded, without delay or discrimination.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies salute the determination and courage of the staff and volunteers of the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) whose tireless efforts have saved countless lives. PRCS staff have been wounded and shot at in the course of their duties and their ambulances and properties have been severely damaged. This has dramatically reduced the PRCS' ability to deliver humanitarian services to the Gaza population.
The Movement deplores the lack of respect and protection given to medical teams, including PRCS personnel and facilities, which are clearly identified by the protective emblem of the Red Crescent. We call on the parties to the conflict to fully meet their obligation under international humanitarian law to facilitate the work of the PRCS and other neutral, independent and impartial humanitarian organizations. We welcome all efforts to achieve a cessation of hostilities, and we call for the establishment of a safe passage for humanitarian assistance in order to secure the provision of relief and the provision of medical care and treatment for the victims of the conflict.
We also applaud the efforts of the Egyptian Red Crescent Society (ERCS) which is doing its best to facilitate humanitarian access to Gaza and taking care of the victims of the conflict. All National Societies, as well as the Federation and the ICRC, are ready to support the ERCS to increase these efforts whenever necessary.
Many components of the Red Cross Red Crescent are fully mobilized and active in Gaza and the region, in full accordance with the fundamental principles that underpin the Movement. We call upon the international community and donor countries to provide their full support to the humanitarian work undertaken by the Movement, which is co-ordinating its efforts closely with the UN system to avoid duplication and gaps.
The meeting convened by the ERCS in Cairo on 11 January has served to underline the way we work together, under our own respective mandates. Participants are committed to scale up their activities in accordance with the evolving nature of the needs.
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