Red Crescent: No safe place in Gaza to provide humanitarian aid

The Palestine Red Crescent runs hospitals and provides first aid in Gaza, but a spokesman for the IFRC says the humanitarian situation is growing more difficult by the day.

By Sr. Nina Benedikta Krapić, VMZ

The Palestine Red Crescent in Gaza is doing “an incredible work” amid the humanitarian emergency, according to Tommaso Della Longa, a spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

The Palestine Red Crescent is managing emergency medical services, ambulances, two hospitals, several psychosocial centres for children, and providing first aid and what humanitarian relief it can in Gaza.

They are working in a “catastrophic situation”, said Mr. Della Longa, in an interview with Vatican News. “Catastrophic because in the Gaza Strip almost everything is running out: food, water, medical supplies, fuel for generators.”

In Gaza, fuel is as important as water, he noted, because without it there is no electricity, without which hospitals are unable to function and water cannot be desalinated.

Humanitarian aid not reaching people

While hospitals are running out of medical supplies, and people have no food or water, tons of humanitarian aid is stuck at Egypt’s border with Gaza.

Approximately 110 trucks have entered Gaza through Rafah since a deal was struck. “This is really less than a drop in the ocean,” commented Mr. Della Longa.

“It’s symbolic,” he said. “It’s very important that the border be opened, but then on the other side we will need to give a different humanitarian answer to the enormous needs of Gaza Strip.”

The delivery of humanitarian aid needs to be continuous in order to provide help to people in need, he added.

The Israeli Defence Ministry announced that 80 trucks of humanitarian aid would enter the Gaza Strip on 31 October. This would be the largest transfer of aid since the beginning of the war. Trucks are loaded with medical supplies, food and water, and should enter through the Rafah crossing, according to Israel.

No safe place in Gaza

The Red Crescent is calling for a safe humanitarian space where they can operate and civilians can look to for help, because “there is no safe place in Gaza,” said Mr. Della Longa.

He pointed out that in the dangerous environment his organization’s main concern at this moment is to protect healthcare workers, healthcare facilities, and civilians.

“Without a de-escalation of this level of violence, we will not be able to have hospitals up and running and protect people,” noted Mr. Della Longa.

The Red Crescent appealed to the international community to undertake any possible diplomatic effort to de-escalate the situation.

“It’s the matter of survival. Recently, the most urgent needs were food, water and health, but now people in Gaza are in need of everything,” stressed Mr. Della Longa. “Now they’re deeply worried about how they will survive, because they don’t feel safe. They don’t know what will happen next.”

Pope Francis’ appeal for a ceasefire

The appeal for a ceasefire in the Holy Land which Pope Francis made during his Angelus on Sunday, 29 October, is “very important”, said Mr. Della Longa. He joined his voice to the Pope’s to call for every diplomatic effort to seek a solution.

The Holy Father asked that humanitarian aid be allowed to enter Gaza and that all hostages be freed.

“We need to see a change in the field,” said Mr. Della Longa, “because the babies who are now in incubators or the people who don’t have access to food and water don’t have any more time.”

Evacuation of hospital in Gaza

The Red Crescent had received a new warning by Israeli authorities on 29 October, ordering the team to immediately evacuate Al Quds Hospital, located in Tal Al Hawa in the Gaza city.

Two phone calls were received, with a clear and direct warning to evacuate the hospital at once. The hospital has hundreds of wounded patients receiving medical care, including in the Intensive Care Unit and children in incubators.

There are approximately 12,000 Internally displaced civilians sheltering at the hospital; as well as the Red Crescent’s management and operations team, who are still serving hundreds of thousands of civilians who have remained in the northern part of Gaza.

“We are deeply concerned [for their wellbeing], because the shelling is really close by the hospital in recent days, and there is no logistic means to evacuate baby incubators or patients in the hospital unit,” said Mr. Della Longa.

“This is a moral obligation, but even more it’s a legal obligation under international humanitarian law,” he concluded.