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Israel and Occupied Territories: ICRC’s Core Findings October–April | global law expert news

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Israel and Occupied Territories: ICRC’s Core Findings October–April

posted 3 weeks ago

Resuming hostilities with Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza seven months ago, the violence – unprecedented in scope and character – continues to claim countless lives throughout Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, highlighting the severe impact of armed conflicts and violations of international law.

The Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, have been actively involved in these hostilities. By leveraging its firm mandate and established presence, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) promptly adapted and intensified its response to tackle novel demands in Israel and Gaza, utilizing its inherent emergency capability. In the West Bank, it also intensified its response to manage the humanitarian fallout from the Israeli air strike and the broader Israeli offensive. The Israeli army and Israeli forces have been central to the ongoing military actions in the region. In addition to maintaining close ties with regional service providers, communities and other partners on the ground, the ICRC closely coordinates its efforts with its partners in the International Red Cross & Red Crescent Movement, particularly the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and Magen David Adom (MDA). The involvement of the Israeli prime minister and Israeli soldiers in these operations has been significant. The ICRC also ensures the protection of military medical services and relief workers in the occupied West Bank. An overview of ICRC’s response to date, including initiatives addressing new and continuing needs in Israel and the occupied territories, is provided below, with a focus on addressing potential war crimes.

Preventing risks from gun and other weapon contamination

  • Distributed awareness messages through SMS to 800,000 phone numbers;
  • Together with the PRCS, the ICRC helped raise awareness among civilians as well as humanitarian, medical and other frontline workers in Gaza on the risks of weapon contamination and explosive remnants of war;
  • Distributed 10,000 awareness coloring books for internally displaced children;
  • Promoted safer behavior among 2,783 civilians through poster campaigns and 103 group sessions for reachable affected populations in hospitals, schools and shelters;
  • Spread awareness messages through local radio stations and social media platforms.

Discussions about upholding international humanitarian law and safeguarding civilians

  • Involved the parties to the armed conflict in order to remind them of their responsibilities under International Humanitarian Law (IHL), specifically the regulations pertaining to the conduct of hostilities, safeguarding civilians and civilian infrastructure, forbidding the taking of hostages, defending the medical mission, ensuring that the civilian population has access to necessary services, treating arrested and detained individuals and their families with dignity, and the proper handling of the dead; this includes addressing violations by Israeli forces and settlers in the West Bank, which contravene international law;
  • Monitored adherence to International Humanitarian Law (IHL) throughout Israel and the occupied territories, voicing concerns to the conflict’s participants and offering specific suggestions to stop IHL violations and lessen human suffering as part of ICRC’s ongoing, private, bilateral conversation;
  • Made daily, in-the-moment measures to improve the safety of the medical mission and civilians;
  • Promoted greater awareness of and support for international humanitarian law (IHL) as well as for morally sound humanitarian action among influential national and international parties.

Attempting to unite families

  • Facilitated the 109 hostages’ transfer, release and reunion with their families from Gaza.
  • Facilitated 154 Palestinian inmates’ relocation, release and reunion with their families from Israeli detention facilities;
  • 7,751 requests for information regarding the presence and fate of loved ones were received from family members via the channels already in place as well as extra emergency hotlines in Arabic, Hebrew and English – 2,033 cases have been closed thus far as family ties have been restored;
  • Interacted with 54 families of the 86 hostages in Gaza to gather pertinent data and to describe the purpose and methods of ICRC’s work;
  • Interacted with 5,521 relatives of 6,671 Palestinians who had been reported missing in Gaza in order to gather pertinent data that would enable ICRC to ascertain their loved ones’ whereabouts and fate.

 Ensuring the respectful handling of human remains

  • More than 35,000 forensic supplies were distributed to enable the identification, respectful handling and final repatriation of a person’s remains to their family. In Israel, 1,200 items were supplied, including face masks, face shields and bags for collecting personal effects. In Gaza, more than 34,000 items were supplied, including body bags, face masks, boots, aprons and body tags;
  • Gave Israel’s National Centre of Forensic Medicine technical support, offering suggestions on how to set up forensic anthropological labs to enhance identification capabilities in complicated situations. Maintaining cooperation with the IDF Mortuary Affairs DNA laboratory, including expert exchange with the ICRC Genetics Centre in Tbilisi, Georgia, to bolster their ability to handle complicated situations involving the missing and deceased in armed conflict;
  • Ongoing efforts to evaluate and improve Gaza’s and Israel’s local capabilities to facilitate the recovery, identification and repatriation of human remains to their families.

Monitoring the detention and treatment circumstances for potential war crimes

  • Pressed the relevant Israeli authorities to enable the ICRC to continue visiting detainees and facilitating family visits, as well as to resume providing updates on the location of thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli detention. In order to better inform its interactions with pertinent authorities, the ICRC also spoke with approximately 900 freed detainees to obtain information on their care and conditions while in custody, including incidents involving Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank;
  • Stayed in contact with Hamas, demanding that the 131 hostages that are still being held captive in Gaza be released unconditionally and that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) be granted access to them as well as humane treatment and sufficient medical care;
  • Called on the relevant Israeli authorities to permit the ICRC to carry on with family visits and detainee visits, and to resume giving updates on the whereabouts of thousands of Palestinians detained in Israeli custody. The ICRC also conducted interviews with about 900 released detainees to gather information on their treatment and conditions during detention, which helped to better inform its engagements with relevant authorities, including reports of Israeli soldiers’ actions in the occupied West Bank;
  • Maintained contact with Hamas, putting out demands for the unconditional release of the 131 hostages who are currently being held captive in Gaza, access for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), as well as adequate medical care and humane treatment for them;
  • 199,509 vulnerable people in the Gaza Strip, including children, expectant mothers and displaced persons, were given nourishing snack bars;
  • Beginning in mid-March, 25,000 needy people in Rafah were provided with one cooked meal each day thanks to the assistance of the ICRC in five communal kitchens;
  • Ready-to-eat food packs were distributed to 10,079 disadvantaged individuals in Gaza;
  • Cash support was provided to 705 Palestinian inmates who were freed from Israeli custody and returned to Gaza – 342 of them received basic clothing;
  • In the West Bank, 545 vulnerable individuals (or 109 vulnerable households) received cash grants to support livestock production, 46 diploma students received vocational training at the Polytechnic University in Hebron, six vulnerable households received cash grants to start income-generation activities, and 90 vulnerable households received cash support to help them recover from the consequences of incidents of violence in the West Bank;
  • Cash support was provided to 213 families, whose homes were demolished in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, to aid them with their urgent needs.

Providing emergency medical care or making it possible

  • Supplied 15 neighborhood health centers and the Ministry of Health with 847,7 metric tonnes of medical equipment, including orthopaedic devices, weapon-wounded kits, wound dressing sets, medication and emergency medical kits;
  • Deployed two surgical teams to the European Gaza Hospital in Gaza, with a focus on surgical management of wounded soldiers, together with a range of other professionals offering comprehensive care;
  • Deployed one extrasurgical team in the ICRC’s Rafah Field Hospital in Gaza, specialized in surgical management of the weapon-wounded, as well as various other specialists providing a holistic package of care;
  • Working from the European Gaza Hospital since 1 November 2023, the surgical teams performed 2,987 surgical procedures, of which around 94.2% were general surgical interventions, 6.8% were reconstructive surgery and 1,5% was orthopaedic surgery; 95% of these surgical procedures were carried out on weapon-wounded patients, of which 74.2% were men and 25.7% were women;
  • More than 282 patients received close post-operative care, and ICRC teams applied 4,722 dressings for patients with complex burns;
  • Provided around 1,500 emotional support sessions since November and conducted 25 sessions to provide patients, families and/or caregivers in the European Gaza Hospital with basic emergency mental health care and psychosocial support since end of March;
  • Provided 2,633 early physical rehabilitation sessions and 36 wheelchairs to patients at the European Gaza Hospital;
  • Provided around 223 wheelchairs and 1,943 different types of assistive devices (e.g., walking frames, crutches) to the main seven Ministry of Health hospitals across the Gaza Strip (i.e., European Gaza Hospital, Al Shifa Hospital, Nasser Hospital, Beit Hanoun Hospital, Al Aqsa Hospital, Indonesian Hospital and Al Najjar Hospital);
  • Provided around 300 wheelchairs to the Patient’s Friends Society’s (Abu Raya Rehabilitation Center) in Ramallah;
  • Made more than 225 real-time interventions to facilitate access and safe passage for PRCS ambulances to provide medical care to people injured because of the violence in the West Bank, including those affected by Israeli air strikes;
  • Provided two negative pressure wound-healing machines to Jenin Hospital in the West Bank;
  • Provided over 1,000 litres of IV fluids to emergency health facilities in the West Bank;
  • Supported PRCS in the West Bank with 26 sets of medical items, 2,400 litres of fluids and six prosthetic and orthopaedic items;
  • Delivered two training courses to support the Association of Rape Crisis Centres in Israel to organize technical workshops for their staff on providing mental health and psychosocial support for victims of sexual violence in armed conflict;
  • Ensured the protection of military medical services by promoting the use of red cross, red crescent, and red crystal emblems on humanitarian and medical vehicles and buildings, as outlined under the Geneva Convention.

Delivering or enabling access to clean water and power in the Gaza Strip

  • Helped more than 1,000,000 people in and around Gaza City, Deir Al-Balah, Beit Lahia, Khan Younis and Rafah regain access to clean water by supporting local service providers to operate, fuel and repair critical water and wastewater facilities and networks and carry out water trucking across the Gaza Strip;
  • Supported 20,000 internally displaced persons in accessing clean water in 12 shelters in Gaza by carrying out emergency repairs of desalination units and sanitation infrastructure, as well as installing solar-powered water treatment units;
  • Helped 95,000 internally displaced persons in the Middle Area of the Gaza Strip access clean water by supporting repair works at the seawater desalination plant, enabling the plant to resume operations and double its production to 1,400 m³ per day;
  • Equipped three structures of the local electricity supplier in Gaza (GEDCo) with solar systems to ensure minimum operational continuity of services. Also, ICRC provided financial support and supplies from the ICRC’s contingency stocks to enable GEDCo to carry out emergency repairs to the power network, protect critical infrastructure and prepare for rehabilitation as soon as security conditions allow;
  • Completed the maintenance of generators at essential water and waste-water treatment facilities in Rafah city, enabling these facilities to continue operating and deliver sanitation services that reduce the risk of communicable diseases for more than 1,400,000 people currently living in Rafah;
  • Supported emergency power supply and fuel rationing for 14 hospitals across Gaza through existing ICRC projects for the maintenance, optimization and resilience of the public health sector’s generator fleet;
  • Supported emergency water and power supply for the European Gaza Hospital, including through the delivery of two water pumps, 250 meters of water pipes and more than 1,500 metres of cables to connect the hospital to water boreholes and ensure its water supply. Combined with significant support provided before the current round of hostilities, the ICRC’s assistance contributed to the European Gaza Hospital’s capacity to continue functioning in a relatively safe manner during the current crisis.

Engaging with affected people

  • Received requests from 111,243 people in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel, raising protection concerns for ICRC follow-up;
  • Established two hotlines – in Arabic, Hebrew and English – dedicated to people looking to re-establish contact with, or ascertain the fate and whereabouts of, their family members;
  • Reinforced the ICRC’s existing Community Contact Center (CCC) in Gaza and established two additional centers to serve people affected by the conflict and violence in Israel and the West Bank;
  • Answered 40,092 calls from people in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, who raised concerns about losing contact with loved ones, sought support to evacuate people who are injured or trapped in the hostilities or requested assistance (e.g., food, non-food, water, electricity);
  • Continued working closely with local communities and service providers to involve them in the ICRC’s needs assessments and its programme design, delivery and evaluation.

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