Red Cross house destruction relief program in Gaza

Arabic News,  3/23/2001

In  a  report  circulated  by  its  office   in   Damascus,   the
International Committee of the Red Cross ICRC announces that  the
UCRC in Gaza has started on March 14, 2001, distributing non-food
assistance to 117 families whose homes have been destroyed by the
Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in  the  Gaza  Strip  since  October
2000.

The  House  Destruction  Relief  program,  which  until  now  was
provided on  an  ad-hoc  basis,  is  now  being  intensified  and
systematized  to  provide  the  homeless  families  with   tents,
blankets and other essential house-hold goods.  The  Distribution
will go on throughout the month in different locations.

Furthermore, the ICRC regrets that its Humanitarian  efforts  are
being hampered by constraints and  obstacles.  The  ICRC  insists
that Humanitarian goods, while not exempt from  security  checks,
should nonetheless be delivered speedily and appropriately.

On 26 February 2001, the International Committee of the red Cross
(ICRC) in Tel Aviv had already expressed its  concern  about  the
situation of the families living in  areas  completely,  or  near
completely, blocked by Israeli Defense Forces security cordons.

Over the past months, as it has been amply reported in the press,
the economic conditions of many people living in closed  villages
has  deteriorated  considerably,  essentially  through  loss   of
earnings. There have also  been  incidents  where  vital  medical
assistance  was  denied,  or  delayed,  thereby  causing  serious
aggravations of individual medical conditions.

The ICRC views the policy of  isolating  whole  villages  for  an
extended period as contrary  to  International  Humanitarian  law
(IHL) particularly with respect to those aspects  of  IHL,  which
protect civilians  in  times  of  occupation.  Indeed,  stringent
closures frequently lead to breaches of Article 55 (free  passage
of medical assistance and foodstuffs), Article 33 (prohibition of
collective punishment),  Article  50  (children  and  education),
Article 56 (movement of medical transportation and public  health
facilities)  and  Article  72  (access  to  lawyers  for  persons
charged) of the Fourth Geneva Conventions.

Furthermore, these security  measures  must  allow  for  a  quick
return to normal civilian life. This, in essence, is the  meaning
of the fourth  Geneva  Convention  which  is  applicable  to  the
Occupied territories.

Confronted with  this  situation,  the  ICRC  is  implementing  a
"Closure relief Program( CRP) which plans to assist  some  35,000
people in sixty West bank" closed villages. The purpose  of  this
program is twofold: at a primary level, the  assistance  provided
by the ICRC is to give some form of economic  support  to  people
whose income is badly affected by  the  Israeli  Defense  Force's
"closures" policy. The relief packages include  blankets,  sugar,
tea, washing powder, and an assortment of personal hygiene items.

More importantly, the ICRC is using the deliveries of  relief  to
strengthen its civilian population protection activities  by  re-
asserting the meaning and scope of the Fourth Geneva  Convention.
By  seeking  access  to  vulnerable  populations,  the  ICRC   is
highlighting both their plight and the responsibilities of  those
hose duty is to protect them.

Through the implementation of  its  Closure  relief  program  and
alongside  its  more  traditional   forms   of   activities   and
representations, the ICRC seeks to see the resumption  of  normal
life for the concerned villagers as soon as possible.

The CRP will target five villages each week for the rest  of  the
year.

The criteria used by  the  ICRC  to  select  the  Closure  Relief
program -  targeted  villages  include  the  number  of  socially
vulnerable people and the prevailing level  of  unemployment  and
the number of days the village was "closed" or "curfewed ."

The ICRC reiterates that the destruction of private  property  in
occupied territories,  which  includes  houses  and  agricultural
infrastructures, is prohibited.

The International committee of the Red Cross,  operating  in  the
area for the past 34 years by virtue of the mandate entrusted  to
it in the Geneva Conventions, will continue to do its  utmost  to
assist and protect the victims in accordance with the  principles
that govern its neutral, impartial and  independent  humanitarian
work.