Red Cross: Red Cross chief to meet families of hostages held by Hamas

GENEVA: The Red Cross head will on Tuesday meet family members of several of the 240 people seized in Hamas’s attack in Israel last month and held hostage in Gaza, the organisation said.
Israeli foreign minister Eli Cohen and health minister Uriel Menachem Buso will also take part in the meeting in Geneva with International Committee of the Red Cross president Mirjana Spoljaric, the ICRC said.
“Families of hostages are living through an incredibly heart-wrenching time and I want to underscore how hard we are advocating on behalf of their loved ones,” Spoljaric said.
“This is a key priority for me, and I know the enormous pain the families are enduring.”
Israel vowed to destroy Hamas after the group’s militants on October 7 carried out the deadliest attack in Israel’s history, killing an estimated 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 240 people hostage, according to Israeli officials.
The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says Israel’s relentless bombardment and swelling ground offensive has already killed 11,240 people, also mostly civilians, including thousands of children.
The ICRC stressed that it had persistently been advocating on behalf of the hostages held in Gaza, including through direct contacts with Hamas and with others holding influence over the parties.
Needs ‘safe access’
“Hostage-taking is prohibited under international humanitarian law. We continue to insist on the hostages’ release and are doing everything in our power to gain access to them,” Spoljaric said.
“We are deeply concerned that children, the elderly, people with disabilities and other vulnerable people are among those held,” she said.
“We will not stop working for their release.”
Spoljaric insisted however: “We cannot do this alone; agreements must be reached that allow the ICRC to safely carry out this work.”
“ICRC cannot force its way in to where hostages are held. We can only visit them when agreements, including safe access, are in place.”
The organisation said it was continuing to request information on the hostages and their current health condition, adding that it was also working to clarify the fates of those as yet unaccounted for.
“The hostages must be treated humanely, have access to medical care, and be able to communicate with their loved ones,” it said.
“The ICRC stands ready to facilitate their release, as it has done for four hostages so far.”
While advocating for the release of the hostages, the organisation stressed that it works to aid victims on all sides of conflict.
In recent weeks, it said it had stepped up its humanitarian response in Gaza, especially its support of emergency health care “amid the dangerous and chaotic conditions”.
“Given the devastating humanitarian impacts in Gaza and Israel, we continue to urge the parties to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law and, in particular, to spare civilians from the conduct of military operations,” it said.


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