Red Cross says in contact with Hamas, Zionists over hostages

GENEVA, Switzerland: The International Committee of the Red Cross is in contact with Hamas and Zionist entity to try to facilitate the release of hostages taken into Gaza, the organization said Thursday. The ICRC also believes that the humanitarian situation inside the Gaza Strip will very quickly become “unmanageable” without a way to get supplies into the besieged territory and distribute them.

“As a neutral intermediary we stand ready to conduct humanitarian visits; facilitate communication between hostages and family members; and to facilitate any eventual release,” Fabrizio Carboni, the ICRC’s regional director for the Near and Middle East, said in a statement. At least 150 Zionists and foreigners—including soldiers, civilians, children and women—have been held hostage in the Gaza Strip since Hamas’s surprise Saturday attack on Zionist entity. In a press briefing, Carboni said the ICRC was in sustained, daily contact with Hamas.

However, he declined to go into details as to whether the organization knew the whereabouts of those being held, respecting the ICRC’s tradition of discretion. Hostage-taking is forbidden under international humanitarian law, and anyone detained must be released immediately, Carboni added. “We’ve called on all parties who have an influence on this case, and especially Hamas, to treat people humanely, respect their dignity, allow them to contact their family and inform them about their situation,” he said. “We should be allowed to visit them. “There are many people who shouldn’t be detained and captured and who need to be released.”

He said the ICRC could not negotiate over hostages—for example in an exchange of detainees—as it is was not the role of a humanitarian organization and there is a “unilateral obligation” to release them. Following Hamas’s bloody attack, Zionist entity has retaliated by declaring a war to destroy the group’s capability, relentlessly pounding the Gaza Strip, which has been under blockade since 2006. Zionist entity has now cut off supplies of water, electricity and food, leaving the enclave in a state of siege. Carboni said the humanitarian situation inside the Gaza Strip would soon become “unmanageable”.

He said that while the ICRC had stocks of certain basic necessities such as fuel for electric generators, chlorine for the water distribution network and even technicians, the bombardment was making it tough to distribute supplies. “Besieging areas like Gaza, more than two million people… is just not acceptable,” Carboni said. “We also need to be in a position to evacuate the wounded, for people to have access to hospitals, health facilities. “We won’t be able in a position to sustain this situation without goods coming into Gaza. So there is really a need to make sure that there is a pause or that there are ways for supplies to go into Gaza.”

The ICRC urged “both sides to reduce the suffering of civilians”. The war has already claimed thousands of lives since Saturday. “The human misery caused by this escalation is abhorrent,” Carboni said. As Gaza is deprived of electricity, “hospitals lose power, putting newborns in incubators and elderly patients on oxygen at risk. Kidney dialysis stops, and X-rays can’t be taken”, he added. “Without electricity, hospitals risk turning into morgues.”

Meanwhile, the first shipment of humanitarian aid arrived in Egypt’s Sinai Thursday from Jordan, state-affiliated media reported, to be transported into Gaza, which Zionist entity has been bombarding for days following a surprise Hamas attack. More than 1,350 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza as Zionist entity has leveled entire city blocks and destroyed thousands of buildings in the six days since Hamas militants launched their unprecedented attack.

El-Arish airport, 50 kilometers (30 miles) away from the Rafah border crossing into Gaza, “has been designated by Egyptian authorities to receive international humanitarian aid from different parties and international organizations”, Egypt’s foreign ministry said in a Thursday statement. — AFP

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