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Gaza: Red Cross facilitates suspension of hostilities to evacuate wounded

Sunday July 20, 2014

Gaza city, July 2014

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has used its services as a neutral intermediary to facilitate an agreement between the Israel Defence Force and Hamas to allow for the immediate evacuation of the sick and injured people in Gaza city.

The Israel Defence Force agreed to suspend hostilities in Shuja'iyya neighbourhood for two hours, said Jacques de Maio, head of the ICRC's delegation in Israel and the occupied territories.

He said this would enable sick and injured people to receive the medical care they need, and give civilians a brief respite from the fighting.

After intensive hostilities in north-eastern Gaza city, dozens of people are reported dead and over 200 wounded in Shuja'iyya. There is concern that the real toll may be higher. This sharp increase in the intensity of fighting and the resulting human cost is a matter of grave concern to the ICRC.

Since the conflict began, getting sick and injured people in the Gaza strip to hospital has been a top priority for the ICRC. The ICRC, along with staff and volunteers from the Palestine Red Crescent Society, have been working around the clock in dangerous conditions to provide urgent medical care.

The situation on the ground remains tense and the ICRC is temporarily redeploying its teams from areas where there is an ongoing exchange of fire. However, discussions are ongoing to ensure the evacuation of the sick and wounded.

As a neutral intermediary, the ICRC maintains confidential bilateral dialogue with all parties to the conflict. The resulting coordination allows emergency access to people in need and the maintenance of vital infrastructure such as the water-supply system.

Under international humanitarian law, medical personnel, hospitals and ambulances exclusively assigned to medical duties must be spared and allowed at all times to carry out their duties.

The parties to the conflict must take all measures needed to ensure access to all those in need and their safe evacuation, without any distinction. International law also obliges the parties to the conflict to respect the red crescent, red cross and red crystal emblems and to duly protect those displaying those emblems.

Read more about the three international emblems of protection