International Red Cross resumes escorting Gaza patients after convoy shooting

By Emma Farge

GENEVA (Reuters) -The Red Cross has resumed patient escorts to the Gaza border after it temporarily halted operations after its convoy came under fire earlier this week, the head of its Gaza office said on Thursday, describing the incident as "deeply alarming" and calling for safety guarantees.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, a neutral organisation based in Geneva, has escorted patients and freed hostages out of Gaza since the Israel-Hamas conflict began more than a month ago and is protected under international humanitarian law.

"The ICRC was targeted the day before yesterday, and that is unacceptable," William Schomburg, the head of the ICRC delegation in Gaza told Reuters by videolink. "We took a pause yesterday," he added, saying it had resumed patient transfers from Gaza City to the Egypt border crossing on Thursday.

Israel has bombarded Gaza repeatedly in response to a cross-border Hamas raid on southern Israel on Oct. 7, in which gunmen killed 1,400 people and took about 240 hostages. Palestinian officials said 10,812 Gaza residents had been killed as of Thursday, about 40% of them children.

Asked in the same interview if the ICRC had any staff fatalities in the Israel-Hamas conflict, he said a colleague had been missing for weeks, without elaborating.

Schomburg voiced alarm about overcrowding in cramped shelters where hundreds of thousands of Gazans have fled to, especially as many thousands more flee south, hoping to avoid the brunt of Israel's ground invasion.

"It's a particularly difficult image in my mind, seeing thousands upon thousands of individuals with a look of total fear on their faces, carrying few of their possessions, some waving white flags as they moved on foot to seek greater safety and protection," he told Reuters.

"Unless there is a reduction in the hostilities and if humanitarian aid is able to enter at a greater rate than it currently is, then the lives of civilians will become increasingly pressurised as resources become ever more scarce," he said.

(Reporting by Emma FargeEditing by Chris Reese and Lisa Shumaker)