Who are Magen David Adom and the Palestine Red Crescent?
You’ve probably heard about the Palestine Red Crescent and Magen David Adom in the news lately. If you’ve wondered how they relate to the Red Cross, here’s an explainer.
Last updated 14 November 2023
Since the devastating armed conflict escalated three weeks ago, teams from Magen David Adom (MDA) in Israel and the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) in Gaza and the West Bank, have been working round the clock to support people caught up in the conflict.
Rooted in their communities, both MDA and PRCS have been able to respond from day one, treating casualties, driving ambulances and providing lifesaving first aid.
Many of the staff and volunteers have been personally affected by the conflict, and have risked their lives to save others. But who exactly are they?
How do Magen David Adom and the Palestine Red Crescent relate to the Red Cross?
The Magen David Adom in Israel, and the Palestine Red Crescent Society, are part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is made up of three parts, each of which plays a distinct and complementary role. National Societies, like the British Red Cross, the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and Magen David Adom in Israel (MDA), work throughout their countries to respond to humanitarian needs locally and nationally. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is a membership organisation which unites the National Societies and provides support and coordination to its members.
The Movement is made up of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and 191 National Societies across the world. The MDA and the PRCS are both formally recognised National Societies.
All Societies within the Movement provide humanitarian assistance in accordance with our shared Fundamental Principles. This includes Magen David Adom and the Palestine Red Crescent Society.
As a part of the neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian Movement, all National Societies respond solely based on need and without discrimination.
What does Magen David Adom do?
The Magen David Adom in Israel is the recognised National Society of the State of Israel. It provides humanitarian assistance according to our Fundamental Principles.
Since the conflict escalated in Israel on 7 October, Magen David Adom has mobilised all of 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.
Since the conflict started, the MDA have confirmed that three of their members have been killed in the line of duty.
Why does Magen David Adom use a different symbol?
When operating within Israel, MDA uses its official sign, the red shield of David (also called the red star of David). If operating internationally, MDA uses the red crystal emblem, often in conjunction with its official sign.
What does the Palestine Red Crescent Society do?
The Palestine Red Crescent Society is also part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and is also bound by our Fundamental Principles.
It provides humanitarian support based on need and without discrimination.
Upon the recent escalation of armed violence, the PRCS activated its Central Emergency Operations Room at the main headquarters in Gaza, which continues to operate 24/7.
Since then, it has also been distributing vital supplies to the many men, women and children in desperate need. These supplies have nearly gone
The Palestine Red Crescent Society is also the leading provider of emergency medical services in Gaza, treating thousands at PRCS run hospitals, providing vital first aid and taking the injured to hospitals. It is also sheltering around 12,000 displaced people.
The PRCS confirmed that four of its paramedics have been killed while providing assistance during this recent conflict.
Why does the Palestine Red Crescent Society use a different symbol?
The Palestine Red Crescent Society uses a red crescent symbol.
Under the Geneva Conventions, the red cross, red crescent and red crystal are symbols of protection in armed conflict. International law protects the people who wear them, and the buildings and transport which display them.
These people aren’t part of a conflict – they’re simply there to help anyone who needs it. The emblems are not religious symbols.
Who is the ICRC?
ICRC stands for ‘International Committee of the Red Cross’.
Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the ICRC is an independent humanitarian organisation, whose role is defined in the Geneva Conventions. It is part of the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement.
The ICRC helps victims of armed conflict and internal crises and works closely with National Societies in these situations. ICRC members also visit prisoners-of-war and civilian detainees to inspect their conditions.
During the conflict, the ICRC has been working round the clock to treat casualties, provide ambulances and lifesaving first aid to all those who need it, alongside the MDA and Palestine Red Crescent Society.
How does neutrality help the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement reach people in need?
The Magen David Adom in Israel, the Palestine Red Crescent Society and the ICRC were already present. That means they were able to respond immediately.
The neutrality of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is key in situations like this. It helps us to build trust with communities and to gain access to people in need. We do not pick take sides. Our sole purpose is to deliver impartial support to those in need of humanitarian assistance.
On 20 October, the ICRC helped to facilitate the release of two hostages by transporting them from Gaza to Israel, and onwards. Two days later we helped facilitate two more.
The ICRC stated that “Our role as a neutral intermediary makes this work possible, and we are ready to facilitate any future release.”
Our neutral stance also meant that, along with the ICRC, the Palestine Red Crescent and the Egyptian Red Crescent the ICRC were able to facilitate aid convoys into Gaza on 20 and 23 October. This allowed a modest amount of vital aid to reach Gaza.
While access was welcome, the ICRC is calling for more aid to be allowed into Gaza. The humanitarian need there is desperate.
What is the Red Cross Movement?
Seeing the suffering of thousands of people on both sides of the Battle of Solferino in 1859, Swiss businessman Henry Dunant knew he had to do something.
He had the idea to create volunteer national societies who would be able to give neutral, impartial help in times of armed conflict. And he proposed an international agreement - the original Geneva Convention - to recognise the neutral status of medical services in armed conflict.
The committee he formed to put these ideas into action became the ICRC.
One voice of compassion, calling for people to receive help no matter which side they were on, was enough to start a movement that now spans 191 countries.
Humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality are our unique principles.
They mean we can continue to access communities on all sides, and to deliver services to all those affected- by armed conflict and other emergencies. Around the world we’re able to reach people that others can’t.
More on the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
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