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Last Updated: Monday, 12 June 2006, 17:58 GMT 18:58 UK
Red Cross boosts Palestinian aid
By Imogen Foulkes
BBC News, Geneva

Palestinian boy with the words "I'm hungry" in a protest against the cutting of aid
The Red Cross says the money will meet the most serious needs
The International Committee of the Red Cross has said it will increase its aid to the Palestinian territories.

The increase of 25%, or more than $8m (4.3m), will mostly go on supporting medical services but the organisation warns of a major humanitarian crisis.

The move comes in the wake of the decision by the EU and the United States to suspend funding to Hamas.

The Red Cross says that that is causing a crisis which aid agencies cannot be expected to solve.

The Red Cross is taking this step with some reluctance.

In April, the organisation said aid agencies could not replace services normally provided by the Palestinian Authority and funded to a large extent by the United States and the European Union.

Two months later, the ICRC says the worsening humanitarian situation has become so bad, it must act.

Israeli responsibility

The Red Cross budget will increase by over $8m, primarily to pay for health services no longer funded by the Palestinian Authority.

But Balthasar Staehelin, the ICRC's chief delegate for the Middle East, warned that this was not a long-term solution.

He said Israel, as the occupying power, had a duty to provide services if the Palestinian Authority could not.

The Red Cross says it has no plans to launch a massive humanitarian operation in the Palestinian territories.

It says that would come far too close to doing the job of the Palestinian Authority and that would put the highly neutral Red Cross in an embarrassing political position.

It is time now, the organisation says, for all parties including the US and the EU to act to prevent a major humanitarian emergency.

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