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Red Cross boosts health assistance to Palestinians

Written by: Staff
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GENEVA, June 13 (Reuters) The International Committee of the Red Cross said it would spend an extra 10 million Swiss francs (8.1 million dollars) in 2006 in aid to Palestinians, with most of the money going on health services.

''The additional funding will provide the means to meet the most acute needs of Palestinians affected by the current crisis, particularly in the health-care sector,'' it said in a statement yesterday.

The increase lifts planned spending to 52 million francs for medical supplies and to cover salaries and help the Palestinian Red Crescent Society operate four hospitals, 30 primary health-care centres and ambulances.

The Swiss-based humanitarian agency said the local Red Crescent Society was no longer being financed by the Palestinian Authority.

Major Western donors led by the United States froze direct aid to the Palestinian government after Hamas Islamists won January elections and refused to recognise Israel, renounce violence or embrace interim Israeli-Palestinian peace deals.

''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 ... to withhold funds and other aid from the Palestinian Authority,'' it said.

The ICRC has said repeatedly that Israel, as the occupying military power, is responsible under international humanitarian law for meeting the basic needs of the civilian population, including food, medical supplies and means of shelter.

''It is of utmost importance that concerted effort be deployed by all parties involved to resolve this crisis before it turns to a major humanitarian emergency,'' said Balthasar Staehelin, agency chief for the Middle East and North Africa.

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