Red Cross ups '06 budget for Israel, PA

Israel responsible for meeting basic needs of civilian population, agency says.

red cross in gaza ap 298 (photo credit: AP [file])
red cross in gaza ap 298
(photo credit: AP [file])
The International Red Cross said Monday it is increasing its 2006 budget for operations in Israel and the Palestinian territories by a quarter to meet the most serious needs. The overall budget for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Israel and the Palestinian territories will rise to more than 52 million Swiss francs (US$42 million; €33 million) and the extra funding will be aimed mainly at improving health care facilities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Geneva-based organization said in a statement. "Every day life is getting more and more difficult," said Balthasar Staehelin, the organization's chief representative for the Middle East and North Africa, told reporters. "The ICRC is deeply concerned about the growing needs and the worsening security situation in the occupied territories, caused in large part by the decision earlier this year to withhold funds and other aid from the Palestinian Authority," the agency said. "Since the beginning of the year, the ICRC had repeatedly warned of such a deterioration." Of the additional 10 million francs (US$8.1 million; €6.4 million), seven million francs (US$5.7 million; €4.5 million) will be allocated to supporting emergency and other essential medical services, the agency said. The money will help the Palestine Red Crescent Society to operate four hospitals, as well as primary health care centers and ambulances, services that have been jeopardized because the Palestinian society no longer receives funding from the Palestinian Authority, the ICRC said. "The situation comes on top of an already chronic humanitarian crisis," Staehelin said. "It is of utmost importance that concerted efforts be deployed by all parties involved to resolve this crisis, before it turns to a major humanitarian emergency." Humanitarian organizations cannot replace the authorities as a provider of public services, the agency said. Israel is responsible for meeting the basic needs of the civilian population of the Palestinian territories, including sufficient food, medical supplies and shelter, the organization said. It also urged all concerned parties to do their utmost to prevent a crisis that would make the hardship of the Palestinian population worse.