Patients at risk as West Bank violence affects movement of 3 million Palestinians

Tens of thousands of lives are being disrupted by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ICRC warns

Palestinians at a checkpoint near the Israeli separation barrier, in the occupied West Bank. AP
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Growing violence in parts of the occupied West Bank has affected the movement of more than three million Palestinians, risking the lives of patients who need daily medical care, the International Committee of the Red Cross has said.

In recent weeks, tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have intensified, in one of the deadliest recent surges of violence in the decades-long conflict.

“Civilians overwhelmingly bear the brunt of the consequences of the recent increase of the armed violence in the West Bank including East Jerusalem,” Suhair Zakkout, a spokeswoman for the ICRC in Gaza, told The National.

This includes widespread house demolitions and destruction of private property, as well as movement restrictions that compromise human dignity and affect people’s livelihoods and access to essential services, Ms Zakkout said.

“We repeat our call to all authorities concerned to take proactive steps to de-escalate tensions and strengthen the respect for civilian life and property,” she said.

“The entire year was very tense, considering the number of casualties, restrictive measures, and closures.”

Hamza, a resident of Beita, a town of about 15,000 in the northern West Bank, told the ICRC that living there felt like being trapped.

His mother needs three dialysis treatments a week and, following a wave of violence, Israeli checkpoints now take much longer to pass through.

“Imagine holding her up for four hours at the checkpoint after a three or four-hour session. She was exhausted. One time, she almost passed out in the car from fatigue,” Ms Zakkout said as she told Hamza’s story.

Over three million people living in the West Bank are facing this such situations on a daily basis and it is taking a heavy toll on the population’s mental health.

"The main issue in the West Bank is the restriction of movement and the closures of some areas which is impacting the regular activities of the population," she said.

The ICRC's operation in the occupied territories is one of the underfunded arms of the humanitarian group.

"This is due to the protracted conflict, which is 56 years old," she said, adding that other worldwide emergences have been given priority.

But, Ms Zakkout says, the group does what it can.

Last year, the ICRC worked with authorities on both sides to maintain family links between Palestinians and their loved ones detained by the Israelis.

"We facilitated permits for over 54,000 family members and transported them to visit their relatives in Israeli prisons. Over 5,000 detainees were able to see their loved ones through regular visits," she said.

Updated: February 02, 2023, 2:00 AM