update deskOctober 7

Hostages Forum asks ICRC to press Hamas for access to captives

The families also urged the Red Cross to advocate for the immediate release of those held in Gaza.

A Hamas terrorist releases Israeli hostages to the Red Cross in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, Nov. 28, 2023. Credit: Flash90.
A Hamas terrorist releases Israeli hostages to the Red Cross in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, Nov. 28, 2023. Credit: Flash90.

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum sent a letter on Tuesday to Mirjana Spoljaric, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and Kate Forbes, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), to raise awareness of the 132 hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza.

The letter calls on Red Cross leaders to cancel commemorations of World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day and urges them to advocate for the immediate release of the hostages held in Gaza. 

“After seven months of Hamas denying the ICRC access to the hostages and after having heard the testimonies of those who came back, we believe it’s time for the ICRC to speak up publicly against Hamas,” Yehonatan Sabban, a former ICRC spokesman in Israel who works as the spokesperson of the medical and resilience team at the Forum, told JNS on Wednesday. 

“It is not the time to celebrate this day. It’s time for the ICRC to issue a statement and explain that Hamas’s actions are violations of International Humanitarian Law. We hope they will,” he added.

“We are writing to you with heavy hearts and deep concern regarding the upcoming commemoration of World Red Cross Day on May 8,” the letter begins. 

“As we approach this significant day, it is evident that there is no room for celebration when 132 Israeli and non-Israeli individuals, including 19 women, a baby and a toddler, have been held as hostages in Gaza for seven months,” it adds. 

“Canceling the commemorations of World Red Cross Day this year would send a powerful message of empathy and compassion to the hostages and their families and reaffirm your unwavering commitment to upholding humanitarian principles in the face of adversity,” the letter continues. 

The Hostages Families Forum noted that the testimonies of survivors who were released during the November 24-30 truce revealed extreme cases of psychological and physical violence, including brutal sexual assault (including against men), mutilation, torture, starvation and forced dehydration. 

“Furthermore, the lack of medical treatment and the prevention of access to medical care by the International Committee of the Red Cross were mentioned. As each day passes, the health and lives of all hostages are seriously endangered,” the letter says.

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Since Oct. 7, the ICRC has come in for criticism from the Israeli premier on down.

Late last month, Geneva-based, pro-Israel group UN Watch exposed ICRC administrator Haythem Abid, apparently based in Montreal, for marching in anti-Israel rallies and posting Hamas propaganda.

In late January, a senior Red Cross official sparked Israeli ire when he compared Israel to Hamas, saying that both parties refuse to allow visitations for prisoners.

A month earlier, it emerged that the ICRC has been helping Palestinian terrorists imprisoned in Israel receive “pay for slay” stipends from the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian Media Watch revealed that Palestinian prisoners fill out forms to receive the stipends, and the Red Cross delivers the paperwork to Ramallah.

In a Dec. 14 meeting in Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nudged Spoljaric to try exerting public pressure on Hamas.

Spoljaric shot back, “It’s not going to work because the more public pressure we would seemingly do, the more they would shut the door.” To which Netanyahu replied, “I’m not sure about that.”

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