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Palestinians Need More Aid, says Red Cross

The International Committee of the Red Cross says it needs about $28 million to provide emergency food and medical aid to an additional 20,000 Palestinian families.

The Red Cross says it must more than double this year's assistance plan for the West Bank and Gaza Strip to help Palestinians not able to cope in the current economic and security situation.

The Red Cross chief for the Middle East, Werner Kaspar, says the large boost in aid is needed to help ease the deteriorating conditions faced by Palestinians following Israeli military incursions and a prolonged economic blockade.

"We have a situation where in the villages, on the one hand, they have an absence of certain food commodities and in the big towns you have a situation where tens of thousands of people can no longer afford to buy the food that is available. So ICRC wants to address this problem as an emergency program for seven months," said Mr. Kaspar.

Israel has temporarily reoccupied parts of the Palestinian territories over recent months, following a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings against Israelis.

The Red Cross says it is also helping Israeli victims of the conflict by supplying 25,000 blood bags to the country's emergency medical service.

The Red Cross has complained in recent months about difficulties in getting food and medical supplies to Palestinians. But Mr. Kaspar say that has changed. "We are accepted as a neutral intermediary," he said. "We are accepted as a humanitarian key player, and Israel has given not only promises but has shown that it lives up to certain promises. ... We have, for example, tens of trucks going everywhere with obstacles, with problems, but we can address the problems and finally find a solution to it," he said.

Israel adopted a new policy last week to tighten the movement of goods and people in the Palestinian territories, saying it will help snare suicide bombers. But international relief agencies complain the policy is tying up aid distribution by requiring local Palestinian staff members to obtain passes to travel beyond checkpoints.