Red Cross asks for aid convoys via Rosh Hanikra

Dr. Jakob Kellenberger, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, arrived from Lebanon Wednesday via the Rosh Hanikra crossing and visited Magen David Adom facilities in the North. Kellenberger asked Israel to allow an aid convoy to travel safely within Lebanon to help victims of IAF bombings, said Noam Yifrach, chairman of the MDA's executive committee. Israel has declared south Lebanon a no-drive zone, warning that any vehicles on the roads would be considered potential target, suspected of carrying fighters or weapons for Hizbullah. It said, however, that exceptions would be made for humanitarian purposes. The air force has destroyed most of the bridges and roads between Beirut and the south to prevent more rockets from reaching Hizbullah, making it difficult for aid to reach the south from within Lebanon. Yifrach said Magen David Adom would seek permission from the Foreign and Defense ministries to assist the Red Cross convoys. "It could happen as soon as tomorrow," Yifrach said after accompanying Kellenberger on a tour of communal bomb shelters in the North. Kellenberger and his entourage were forced to enter a shelter as air raid sirens wailed over Nahariya. "It's always civilians on both sides who pay the price" for war, he said. When the sirens went off, Kellenberger's convoy pulled to the side of the road and the ICRC president, his aides and journalists scrambled into a public bomb shelter where two families already had taken cover. The thump of two rockets was heard as the group entered the underground concrete room. Rescue services gave the all clear after 10 minutes. Kellenberger said he was "deeply shocked" at seeing the families in the shelters and urged everyone to follow security instructions regarding Katyusha falls. He then drove to Haifa, where he was given a detailed presentation on the hardships faced by residents and rescue personnel in the Carmel region. Kellenberger will meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Amir Peretz during his four-day visit. Kellenberger, a Swiss citizen, praised MDA for treating and evacuating thousands of victims of Hizbullah rocket attacks. In Beirut, Kellenberger met with President Emile Lahoud, Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. They discussed the humanitarian situation in Lebanon, ways of providing assistance and protection for those affected by the armed conflict, and the ICRC's ongoing operations in the country. Kellenberger did not make political statements during his first day in Israel, but he will hold a press conference at the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem on Thursday.