15-01-2009  News release 12/09 

Gaza: wounded at risk as Al-Quds Hospital is hit

Geneva/Jerusalem (ICRC) – As a result of intensifying fighting in Gaza today, a number of medical and humanitarian aid facilities have been shelled.

The Al-Quds Hospital run by the Palestine Red Crescent Society in Gaza City was hit by explosions and fire broke out, putting at risk the lives of around 100 patients and the medical staff caring for them.

"It is unacceptable that wounded people receiving treatment in hospitals are put at risk," said Jakob Kellenberger, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who just completed a three-day visit to the area that included a stop at Shifa Hospital in Gaza. He insisted that all parties to the conflict must comply with international humanitarian law. During meetings held in Tel Aviv this morning with Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Mr Kellenberger insisted once again that the rules of international humanitarian law oblige the parties to a conflict to spare civilians and to protect medical personnel and medical facilities at all times. He requested systematic access to all parts of Gaza for humanitarian assistance, especially medical assistance.

"The hospital suffered at least one direct hit this morning, and all the patients had to be moved in panic to the ground floor," said Bashar Morad, director of Palestine Red Crescent emergency medical services. The second floor of the building immediately caught fire. The hospital's pharmacy was also partly damaged. Fire brigade trucks, escorted by ICRC teams, rushed to the scene and managed to put out the fire.

Medical and humanitarian facilities are becoming more and more exposed to the effects of the fighting. "These recent developments are particularly alarming in that the Gaza hospitals are already overcrowded and overstretched, and the number of casualties is growing," said Mr Kellenberger.

The ICRC president received commitments from Foreign Minister Livni and Defence Minister Barak that everything possible will be done to facilitate the ICRC's humanitarian work on the ground. Mr Kellenberger stressed the importance of granting the ICRC access to all persons detained, including to the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

One of the two Palestine Red Crescent warehouses in Gaza was shelled this morning and set ablaze. The warehouse was full of relief items. The ICRC arranged for the safe passage of fire brigade trucks to the warehouse and to the UNRWA compound, also hit this morning.

For further information, please contact:
Dorothea Krimitsas, ICRC Geneva, tel +41 22 730 25 90 or +41 79 251 93 18
Anne-Sophie Bonefeld, ICRC Jerusalem, tel +972 2 582 88 45 or +972 52 601 91 50
Iyad Nasr, ICRC Gaza, tel +972 59 960 30 15 (Arabic)
Yael Segev-Eytan, ICRC Tel Aviv, tel +972 3 524 52 86 or +972 52 275 75 17 (Hebrew)
Nadia Dibsy, ICRC Jerusalem, tel +972 5917900 or +972 52 601 91 48 (Arabic)