A day after its office in the Gaza Strip was bombed by Israeli forces, Qatar Red Crescent Society (QRCS) vowed to continue with its humanitarian projects for the benefit of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories, even as support poured in for the organisation following the attack.
In a statement to Gulf Times on Tuesday, QRCS said co-ordination is currently on to provide aid and support worth $1mn to help those affected by the recent events, in co-operation with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.
On Monday, Qatar had expressed its strong condemnation of the Israeli occupation’s bombing of the QRCS building in the besieged Gaza Strip, which resulted in several deaths and injuries as well as damage to the building.
QRCS said all international organisations concerned have been notified about the Israeli violations, stressing that great support and solidarity have been extended to QRCS at the level of governments, international organisations as well as the public.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Thamer al-Thani, chairman of the QRCS Board of Directors, expressed strong condemnation of the continued Israeli attacks on civilians, medical facilities and humanitarian institutions operating in the Gaza Strip, which on Monday targeted the headquarters of the QRCS in Gaza, stressing that these attacks represented a flagrant violation of the international humanitarian law.
He praised the wide international solidarity campaign with the QRCS after it was targeted, whether at the level of governments, national societies, international organisations, media institutions and local bodies or at the public level, which emphasised the importance of providing protection for the humanitarian teams working to help the people of the Gaza Strip, Qatar News Agency reported.
He extended his thanks and appreciation to all parties that showed solidarity with QRCS after this attack, especially the Turkish government, Palestinian Red Crescent Society, the president of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Arab Organisation of the Red Crescent and Red Cross, Turkish Red Crescent, Jordanian Red Crescent, Iranian Red Crescent, Dutch Red Cross, UNRWA, IHH and the Network of the Red Crescent and Red Cross National Societies in the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation.
The QRCS chairman affirmed that the QRCS and its field teams will continue implementing humanitarian relief projects for the benefit of the affected people in the Gaza Strip in co-operation and co-ordination with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, calling for protection for humanitarian and medical teams and respect for international humanitarian law.
Sheikh Abdullah received a phone call from ICRC director-general Robert Mardini, during which the latter expressed solidarity with QRCS and the committee's condemnation of the bombing that targeted the QRCS headquarters in the Gaza Strip.
During the call, Mardini said the ICRC stresses the importance of respecting the international conventions, customs and international legal texts in the four Geneva conventions, which affirm the protection of civilians, medical and paramedical personnel and relief workers, who are protected under international humanitarian law.
In a related statement posted on Twitter Tuesday, Sheikh Abdullah said: "I would like to express my gratitude to all my colleagues, national societies, heads of Red Crescent, Red Cross, local and international bodies, and all individuals who have expressed their solidarity with QRCS after the targeting of its office in Gaza, wishing safety for everyone."
Officials and organisations expressed shock over Monday's attack on the QRCS office, and also expressed solidarity with the organisation.
"Shocked that the Qatar Red Crescent office in Gaza was hit in an air strike. Luckily all QRCS staff are safe. But all steps must be taken to ensure medical infrastructures and staff are protected. This incident will only hinder humanitarian response at this critical time," said Mardini on Twitter.
On its part, the UNRWA said: "We are horrified by the ongoing destruction of critical medical facilities in Gaza, from MSF clinics to QRCS HQ. After repeated escalations and 14 years of blockade, Gaza has little-to-no healthcare infrastructure to speak of. What remains is under attack during a pandemic."
"The Gaza office of Qatar Red Crescent was targeted by Israeli forces. Israel is bombing media outlets and humanitarian services. It commits war crimes. Our sincere condolences to Qatar Red Crescent. We are hoping for the fast recovery of all those who were wounded," IHH, a Turkish NGO, had tweeted after the attack on Monday.
Francesco Rocca, president of the IFRC, said: "Very concerning news from Gaza: the Qatar Red Crescent office was bombarded. Civilians, humanitarian teams and their infrastructures, medical staff, ambulances and hospitals, media are not a target. Our solidarity to QRCS volunteers and staff."
QRCS said the attack on its office in Gaza was a violation of the international humanitarian law. Humanitarian aid workers and teams should be allowed to do their work safely in accordance with international laws and Geneva conventions in this regard, it added.
Further, QRCS pointed out that its field work teams had not received any prior warning of the bombing of the building on Monday.
Dr Fawzi Oussedik, director of international relations and international humanitarian law at QRCS, told Gulf Times that the organisation has moved at various levels in response to the bombing of their office in Gaza. These include international humanitarian organisations, as all parties concerned have issued statements denouncing the attack. Besides, the protection of medical teams in areas of conflict, which is well-established in international laws and conventions, has been stressed and will be a subject of further discussion at the highest possible levels among relevant entities regionally and internationally.
"We have also made a move at the level of Arab organisations to urge for the establishment of a committee to investigate the facts and expose such illegal practices against those who offer urgent humanitarian aid and support," he informed.
The official added that QRCS will seek to enhance awareness and knowledge about the importance of ensuring protection for humanitarian organisations, which is stipulated in the Geneva conventions and the decisions of the UN Security Council or even the rules of the International Criminal Court.