Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and families of Israelis held hostage by Hamas in Gaza hosted a briefing for some 70 ambassadors to the UN Office in Geneva on Wednesday, as part of ongoing efforts to maintain international support for Israel’s war on Hamas.
The briefing was also conducted with the goal of exerting international pressure for the return of some 240 hostages held in Gaza since October 7, when Hamas unleashed their terror onslaught onto southern Israel, taking the hostages and killing at least 1,200 people.
“The world must know what happened on October 7, and unite in support of Israel’s struggle to eliminate Hamas in Gaza and return the hostages,” Cohen told the diplomats. “In Gaza, Israel is fighting against a murderous terrorist organization, worse than ISIS, and it is a war that we must win, not only for us but for the entire Western world.”
During the briefing, Cohen presented the attendees with information on Israel’s actions since October 7.
Following Hamas’s deadly attacks, in which families were murdered in their homes and young adults were mowed down at an outdoor music festival, Israel vowed to eliminate Hamas from the Gaza Strip, which the terror group has ruled since 2007.
Over the last 40 days, Israel has carried out an air and ground operation, focusing mainly on the northern part of the Strip.
As time stretches on, Cohen has expressed concern that Israel will see a significant decrease in international support in the coming weeks.
In a briefing on Monday, he told reporters that while diplomatic pressure is currently low, it is trending upwards, and said he believes Israel only has two or three weeks left before the “diplomatic window” for the IDF’s campaign shuts.
Family members of hostages who accompanied Cohen to Geneva also spoke at the briefing, sharing their experiences on October 7 and the plights that their loved ones are believed to be suffering in Gaza.
Among the family members accompanying Cohen were Ofri Bibas Levi, the sister of Yarden Bibas, who is being held captive by Hamas together with his wife Shiri and their two young children, Ariel, aged 4, and Kfir, aged 10 months; Ilan Regev, whose children Mia and Itai were captured at the Supernova Festival; Idit Ohel, whose son Alon was also taken hostage from the festival; and Eilat Svetitsky, whose mother and brother are believed to be in Gaza.
Following Wednesday’s briefing, a statement from the delegation said that “family members spoke about their loved ones and the circumstances of their abduction, and called on the ambassadors to act decisively in order to bring about the international organizations coming to visit the hostages, and to form an international coalition that would lead to their immediate release.”
On Tuesday, the delegation met with the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Mirjana Spoljaric Egger.
“The Red Cross must work through all channels to visit the hostages as soon as possible, including children, women and the elderly, held captive by the Hamas terrorist organization,” Cohen said following the meeting.
“We expect the Red Cross to put the issue at the top of the organization’s priority list, to use all levers of pressure, and not rest until it visits all the hostages, assesses their condition, and makes sure they are receiving the medical care they need.”
Also on Tuesday, Cohen and the hostage families met with World Health Organization Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and decried Hamas’s use of hospitals in Gaza as cover for its terrorist activities, calling it a severe failure of the WHO.
In recent days, the IDF has closed in on Shifa Hospital, where it says Hamas maintains a major headquarters, and on Tuesday, the Biden administration confirmed long-held Israeli assertations that the terror group is using the hospital for military purposes.
Overnight on Tuesday, Israeli special forces and other troops entered the hospital in order to carry out “a precise and targeted operation” against Hamas infrastructure at the site.
A senior military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, later said soldiers had found “concrete evidence” of Hamas’s use of the hospital as a military facility.
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.