The scale of civilian losses during the four-week conflict in the Gaza Strip must not happen again, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross says.
Speaking to reporters after visiting Gaza, ICRC President Peter Maurer says he was “deeply distressed and shocked to see the impact of violence on the civilian population.”
Maurer indicates there may have been violations of international humanitarian law during the war.
“The law hasn’t been accurately and ambitiously implemented in this armed conflict,” he says.
“The Geneva Conventions have been designed to protect and assist people, and I cannot be satisfied… when after four weeks of armed conflict we see the amount of destruction and the amount of victims.”
But, in keeping with ICRC’s strict principles of neutrality, Maurer declines to blame either side, saying each and every incident will be investigated.
The organization will compile a confidential report and share recommendations with all sides “to ensure… this amount of victims” does not happen again, he tells a news conference in Jerusalem at the end of a three-day visit.
ICRC will also investigate the precise circumstances in which medical personnel and Palestinian Red Crescent colleagues were killed, he says.
“I’m moderately optimistic from the signs of goodwill I have encountered in all places to engage with the ICRC to make our assistance and protection more meaningful,” Maurer says.
Maurer met political leaders in Gaza, Ramallah, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
ICRC is determined to narrow the “enormous discrepancy” between the need and the capacity of aid organizations to protect and assist civilians in areas of conflict, Maurer says.
And it will immediately work to reestablish supplies of water, sanitation and electricity, as well as assisting the displaced and increasing medical assistance in Gaza, he says.
Hospitals in Gaza had been inundated with casualties, but they were well equipped to deal with current cases, provided the ceasefire continues, he says.