Israel-Gaza conflict: people await news of loved ones in Israel and famine looms in Gaza

Here’s the latest news explaining what's happening in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and how the Red Cross and Crescent Movement is supporting people affected.

Last updated 20 May 2024

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Since 7 October 2023, we have seen some of the worst violence in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory in recent years. The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement will remain on the ground, providing support and vital aid to affected communities on all sides.

Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territory conflict: summary of latest news

  • More than 1,000 people have been killed in Israel and tens of thousands in the Gaza Strip
  • In Israel, people have been displaced from their homes, many of these evacuated from the border areas
  • The majority of people in Gaza are now facing a catastrophic food crisis.

Read: Gaza humanitarian crisis: Resources run out and displacement soars

What is the situation like for people in Israel and Gaza?

Over the last six months, civilians have overwhelmingly borne the brunt of the hostilities in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement continues to urge the parties to the conflict to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties and further harm to civilians. 

The situation in Israel

The families of over 200 hostages have endured weeks of terrible suffering with no news of their loved ones. Others are mourning the deaths of more than 1,200 people, who were killed in the attacks on 7 October 2023.

There is a need for substantial psychosocial support for those affected by violence, including many who have lost loved ones.

Though some hostages have been reunited with their loved ones, there are still families who are worried sick about the remaining hostages taken from Israel. 

The ICRC has so far facilitated the release of Israeli 109 hostages; and continues to call for the immediate release of all hostages taken from Israel.

Have people in Israel been displaced from their homes during the conflict?

Over 200,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Israel, many of these evacuated from the border areas near Gaza and Lebanon.

Some left their homes with nothing more than the clothes on their back and therefore need food, shelter, permanent lodging, and schooling. 

People continue to seek shelter from the conflict, and homes and other buildings that have been damaged will need to be rebuilt in the future. 

Staff and volunteers from Magen David Adom (MDA) in Israel have been working round the clock to treat casualties, and provide ambulances and life-saving first aid to all those who need it.

They face danger themselves. All parties must respect their legal obligations under international humanitarian law and protect civilians and healthcare workers at all times.

The situation in Gaza

The humanitarian situation in Gaza is worsening every day and has become a humanitarian catastrophe. The country is facing a catastrophic food crisis.

More than 75% of the population have been displaced in Gaza have been forced to leave their homes, and are living in the streets, makeshift shelters, or tents. With winter here, a lack of fuel, medication, and warm clothing is making the situation even worse.

In addition, the healthcare system has crumbled, and disease is taking hold in sheltered communities.

The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement is working together to address the immense humanitarian needs in Gaza.

Map of Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territory

What has the Red Cross been doing to help people in Gaza and Israel?

Red Cross and Red Crescent staff and volunteers are working day and night to bring life-saving assistance and medical treatment to the men, women and children who need it most – whoever and wherever they are. 

As local and national responders, both the Magen David Adom in Israel (MDA) and the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) have a trusted relationship with their local communities – established over many years.

This gives them a unique ability to provide far-reaching humanitarian and medical services, which are essential in the current emergency and for recovery in the future. 

Tragically, fourteen members of the PRCS, three members of the MDA, and an ICRC driver have lost their lives in the line of duty. This is unacceptable.

Several volunteers from both PRCS and MDA have been injured. We stand with our colleagues who have risked and even lost their lives while providing vital assistance to those who need it most over the course of this conflict.

How we’re supporting people in Israel and Gaza:

Magen David Adom

MDA has mobilised all its available resources to assist the injured. This includes 1,500 ambulances, and 10,000 first responders. All MDA ambulances are staffed and on call 24/7. With 130 additional teams on active duty on top of regular activities.

  • colleagues from MDA have been working tirelessly: supporting health authorities with inter-hospital transfers and evacuating bedridden people from border communities
  • providing 600 litres of breast milk to babies whose mothers have been kidnapped or who are unable to provide themselves
  • collected, tested and processed 118,000 units of blood for medical facilities
  • treated more than 4,000 patients.

Teams are also planning for possible escalation and are on the highest level of alert across Israel, and assisting the military and police with death notifications.

Staff and volunteers have also conducted trauma care first aid sessions, with more than 60,000 attendees.

Palestine Red Crescent Society

PRCS has been able to distribute relief items to more than 94,000 internally displaced families (520,000 people) in temporary shelters and at their hospitals.

Aid items include food parcels, milk, blankets, mattresses, water as well as some hygiene kits, kitchen sets, and baby necessities to affected communities.

  • PRCS paramedics have provided emergency medical care to more than 17,004 people in Gaza
  • PRCS have provided emotional support to 165,000 people
  • Providing emergency medical care to more than 4,000 injured people in the West Bank

How is the British Red Cross and ICRC supporting people in Gaza and Israel? 

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has over 300 full time staff working in its Israel and the occupied territories delegation; 130 are based in Gaza.

The ICRC is supporting local societies and providing vital medical supplies and emergency medical support, including surgical teams. They are also advocating for the release and good treatment of hostages.

The British Red Cross is directly supporting our partners in the Movement – including MDA, PRCS and the ICRC. When fighting escalated in the region, we immediately launched an emergency appeal to support people in Israel and the Occupied Palestine Territories.

We are also providing funding and experts to the area. Since the escalation began, we have deployed nine psychosocial volunteers to Tel Aviv, Cairo and Cyprus alongside the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

These staff members have supported British Nationals in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories and those leaving via the Rafah crossing or on UK military flights.

We have also deployed logistics and managerial staff to the region to support with the deliver and distribution of aid and humanitarian assistance.

How to help people in Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel

The best and quickest way to help people affected is by donating to our Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territory Appeal.

Donations made to the Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territory Appeal will help our teams on the ground respond to changing events and provide life-saving emergency humanitarian aid and medical operations in the region.

DONATE to the Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territory Appeal

What has the role of the Red Cross been in Israel and the Occupied Territory in recent times?

The ICRC has been present in Israel and the occupied territories since 1967. As a neutral, independent humanitarian organisation, it promotes compliance with international humanitarian law and works to lessen the impact of violence, conflict and occupation on civilians.

The ICRC visits detainees in Israeli and Palestinian places of detention and works to maintain family links through the Family Visit Programme. They also support livelihood projects throughout the Occupied Territory and help improve access to essential services like water and electricity in Gaza.

They stand up for people impacted by conflict and promote their rights and dignity, and consistently remind parties of their obligations under international humanitarian law though dialogue.

Magen David Adom offers a variety of support across Israel through ambulance services, providing medical equipment and first aid training. It also provides a blood service to Israelis, distributing over 300,000 units of blood via blood bags that cost over £3,500,000 every year.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society offers support through emergency medical services, disaster management, as well as mental health and psychosocial support.

It was also the first Palestinian organisation in both Palestine and the diaspora to embody and adopt the concept of volunteering.

Has the ICRC helped transfer hostages?

On Friday 24 November, teams from the ICRC began a multi-day operation to facilitate the release and transfer of hostages held in Gaza, and of Palestinian detainees to the West Bank.

In total, the ICRC facilitated the release of 109 hostages held in Gaza, and 154 Palestinian detainees in Israel.

Although some hostages have been reunited with their loved ones, there are still families who are worried sick about loved ones taken hostage.

The ICRC continues to advocate on behalf of the remaining hostages held in Gaza and is working to secure their release.

Fabrizio Carboni, the ICRC's regional director for the Near and Middle East says: "The deep pain that family members separated from their loved ones feel is indescribable.

"Our deep desire is for all hostages to be released, and that civilians be shielded from the pain and suffering that armed conflict brings."

Are you working with governments?

We don’t work for governments, but we do work with them, where necessary to achieve strictly humanitarian aims.

Governed by our principles of neutrality and impartiality, we respond to humanitarian need no matter what the cause of the crisis.

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies consists of national societies in 191 countries around the world and members include the Palestine Red Crescent Society and the Magen David Adom.

All national societies are independent of government and respond to crises based on humanitarian need alone.

We are deeply concerned about the situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory and send our heartfelt wishes of solidarity to those personally affected by the events, and to our partner organisations on the ground.

Have you been affected by the situation in Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territory?

We have also created an advice page if you're currently in Israel or the Occupied Palestinian Territory. 

More on the Israel and OPT crisis 

Donate to the Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territory Appeal 

Please help us provide support and vital aid.

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