International Red Cross head: Innocents on both sides are suffering

Peter Maurer visits Israeli, Gazan hospitals in aftermath of Operation Protective Edge; Justice Minister Livni accompanies him.

 President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer (photo credit: screenshot)
President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer
(photo credit: screenshot)
Innocent people in Israel and Gaza have suffered as a result of the conflict, the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer said on Wednesday.
He spoke after visiting Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon on Wednesday and Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Tuesday, to witness first hand the impact of Operation Protective Edge on civilians.
He told reporters, “I visit a lot of hospitals and medical facilities on this and other front lines all over the world and in all those hospitals you see the same innocent victims who suffer, same parents - I am not going to make comparisons from one place to another place.”
From Barzilai he went to the Magen David Adom’s headquarters in Ashdod.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni who accompanied him on his visit, noted that he had arrived in Israel from Gaza, where it had been painful to view the destruction.
“It’s true that there are more victims there, both physically and emotionally. And in Israel, thanks to Iron Dome there are fewer,” Livni wrote on her Facebook page.
It was important for him to hear from the southern residents, including the children, who have lived under constant rocket fire and are fearful that terrorists will emerge from an underground tunnel, Livni said.
“These Israelis, as well as the Palestinians in Gaza, are paying the price for Hamas’s extremist terrorist ideology that targets citizens here and exploits citizens there,” she said.
In Ashdod, southern residents spoke to him of the trauma of living under rocket fire.
Ofer Vaknin, 12, said he found the idea of an underground tunnel particularly scary.
“I’m afraid I’ll wake up in the middle of the night to find a terrorist in my house.”
Paramedic Rachel Ichar-Shalom, who is a mother of eight, said that there was only a small space in her house that was protected from rocket fire.
“Every night, I have to decide which of my children will sleep there and which ones will be less safe during the night,” she said.
MDA director-general Eli Bin said his staff had operated around the clock throughout the South to provide emergency care.
Yoni Yugodovsky, MDA’s director of international affairs, said that the organization was prepared to help transfer wounded Palestinians from Gaza to Israeli hospitals.
“To our sorrow, [the authorities] in the Gaza Strip only allowed us to transfer five patients, even though we offered to do more,” Yugodovsky said.
Maurer told them, “your fears are the fears of the other side of the front line. Your concerns are the concerns on the other side of the front lines.
"It is very much the impression I have today coming from Gaza, that I see victims here in Israel, this morning when I visited the hospital in Ashkelon. I saw victims on the other side and victims look the same. I talked to victims yesterday on what they experience from the shelling and I talk to you and I hear you today and what victims say is the same."
Later in the afternoon, Maurer traveled to Ramallah to visit Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Maurer visited the Shejaia neighborhood on Tuesday too, which the IDF shelled heavily over the last few weeks.
Gazans have expressed anger toward the Red Cross, whom they felt did not adequately respond to calls of evacuation amidst the shelling.
On July 27, a crowd in Khan Yunis attacked the ICRC office and torched furniture, condemning the lack of assistance.
Maurer said that in Shejaia he “saw a whole neighborhood in rubbles and buildings destroyed beyond repair.”
At Shifa, he said, “I’ve seen the injuries of the warfare of the past weeks here.
And this leaves me with a deep feeling of shock and being shaken by what I have seen, by anger and frustration also, about the fact that we were not able to prevent what was happening.”
“If I come down here from this visit, I come down with a strong determination, that this should not be repeated, that we have to do better, and that we have to do more,” he said.
Reuters contributed to this story.