The humanitarian crisis in Gaza has prompted a rare public statement from the famously neutral International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). As international donors prepare to meet in Paris on Monday, they echo the IRC's concerns. Read Donald MacIntrye's account in London's The Independent here. A summary:
On Thursday the Red Cross urged Israel to alleviate a "deep human crisis" by easing restrictions on Palestinian movement. The appeal came ahead of an international donors' conference co-chaired by Tony Blair. The World Bank and the Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad warned that the $5.6bn (£2.7bn) they hope will be pledged in Paris "will not reverse the collapse of the Palestinian economy, unless there is a significant reduction in checkpoints and closures."
The ICRC said Israel's "harsh security measures" came at an "enormous humanitarian cost," with the "dignity of the Palestinians being trampled underfoot day after day, both in the West Bank and Gaza." The agency said "retaliatory" closures of Gaza since Hamas seized control in June have resulted in 823 sick people being prevented from leaving for urgent medical care. Deaths occurred in three of these cases - despite the ICRC's direct intervention - because of Israeli "administrative and security clearance delays." The Red Cross said Israel has the right to protect its population, but "the balance between [its] legitimate security concerns and the right of the Palestinian people to live a normal life has not been struck."
Among other punitive measures the Israelis have imposed, Palestinian students with scholarships or fellowships to study abroad have been prevented from leaving Gaza. American diplomats have directly intervened, to no avail.