Red Cross urges action to relieve crisis in Gaza, West Bank

GENEVA — The Palestinian population living in the occupied territories is facing a worsening humanitarian crisis as a result of the drastic deterioration of the situation there, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a Dec. 13 statement.

The ICRC said it is particularly concerned about the impact of the severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods that exacerbate economic hardship and affect every aspect of life.

“The measures imposed by Israel come at an enormous humanitarian cost, leaving the people living under occupation with just enough to survive, but not enough to live a normal and dignified life,” said Béatrice Mégevand Roggo, the ICRC’s head of operations for the Middle East and North Africa. “The Palestinian people are paying an exceedingly high price for the continuing hostilities between Israel and Palestinian factions. Their situation is made even more difficult by intra-Palestinian rivalries. The Palestinian population has effectively become a hostage to the conflict.”

The situation in the Gaza Strip is alarming, it said. The Strip has been progressively sealed off since June: imports are restricted to the bare minimum and essential infrastructure, including medical facilities and water and sanitation systems, is in an increasingly fragile state. Substantial cuts in fuel supplies further add to the hardship experienced by the population. In the West Bank, stringent restrictions on the movement of people continue to severely hamper the economic and social life of the Palestinian population.

“Israel’s right to address its legitimate security concerns must be balanced against the Palestinians’ right to live a normal and dignified life,” said Mégevand Roggo. “In the current situation, humanitarian assistance alone is insufficient. It cannot and should not be a substitute for political action.”

Looking ahead to the imminent conference of major donors in Paris, the ICRC appealed for immediate political steps to be taken to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the West Bank. Moreover, it called on Israel to respect its obligations under international humanitarian law, to ease restrictions on movement in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and to lift the retaliatory measures that are paralyzing life in Gaza. The ICRC also called on the Palestinian factions to stop targeting civilian areas and endangering the lives of civilians.