In a whistle-stop tour of Geneva on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen scolded the heads of international agencies, urging the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) chief to find a way to get access to hostages in Gaza, the World Health Organization (WHO) director to condemn Hamas, and the UN secretary-general to resign.
In his meeting with ICRC President Mirjana Spoljaric Egger in Geneva, Cohen insisted that the organization put the issue at the top of its agenda and use all leverage at its disposal to visit the some 240 hostages taken captive by Hamas and other terror groups during the atrocities perpetrated in southern Israel on October 7.
Cohen decried the World Health Organization following a meeting with its head Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, saying Hamas’s use of hospitals in Gaza as “cover for its terrorist activities” indicated a severe failure of the WHO.
The foreign minister also held meetings at the UN Office in Geneva, where he decried UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as unfit to lead the body following strong criticism he has voiced against Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.
“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,” said Cohen following his meeting with Spoljaric Egger.
“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,” he added.
Cohen took several close family members of the hostages with him to the meeting, including 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 just 10 months.
Three other relatives of hostages were present in the meeting, along with Health Minister Uriel Busso.
“I told the president of the Red Cross and the chairman of the World Health Organization that the State of Israel does not intend to stop until all the hostages are freed from their captivity at the hands of the terrorist organization Hamas, and I demanded her involvement in maintaining their safety,” said Busso.
One of the ICRC’s key stated missions is to “secure humane treatment and conditions of detention for all detainees, regardless of the reasons for their arrest and detention” and to “seek to alleviate the suffering of their families, particularly by restoring communication between detainees and their relatives.”
Following his meeting with Ghebreyesus, Cohen called on the WHO to condemn Hamas’s use of medical facilities in Gaza.
“The Hamas terrorist organization’s cynical use of hospitals as shelter for its terrorist activities is a resounding failure of the World Health Organization and the UN organizations,” said Cohen.
“Under the noses of these organizations, the largest terrorist infrastructure in the world was established. This is a double war crime when missiles and rockets are fired at the Israeli population from close to the hospitals,” he said.
“The European Union already announced this week that Hamas is using the hospitals and the population in Gaza as human shields for Hamas terrorists, and UN organizations should join this unequivocal call.”
During the visit to the UN Office in Geneva, Cohen held a press conference where he had harsh words for the UN secretary-general.
“Guterres does not deserve to lead the United Nations. Guterres did not promote any peace process in the region… Guterres, like all the free nations, should say clearly and loudly: ‘Free Gaza from Hamas,'” Cohen said, adding that Guterres should step down.
“We are here to call for the immediate release of all our civilians… We are fighting for the State of Israel, but we are also fighting for human dignity. If we will not win, you will be next. The Islamic jihad doesn’t have borders, the international community should say clearly, ‘Free Gaza from Hamas.’ not just for the security of the State of Israel, but also for the people of Gaza.”
AFP contributed to this report.