Amid an ongoing spat with the Red Cross, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen demanded Wednesday that the group visit the 240 hostages Israeli believes are being held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and harshly criticized the organization’s conduct.
The foreign minister told the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Mirjana Spoljaric, that the ICRC must demand to meet and provide medical assistance to all the hostages, Cohen’s office said.
“The Red Cross has no right to exist if it does not succeed in visiting the hostages being held captive by the Hamas terror group,” Cohen told Spoljaric, and noted that “children, women and Holocaust survivors” are being held captive.
“The Red Cross must act decisively and with a clear voice and utilize all leverage it has to push for a visit to the hostages as soon as possible,” Cohen added.
Cohen’s statements came after the Red Cross sent a letter on Tuesday to the Israel Prison Service, cautioning the state about a wartime law passed in the Knesset two weeks ago that allows National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir to worsen the conditions of security prisoners if a “prison emergency” were to be declared.
The foreign minister criticized the ICRC for focusing on Israel, “which is bound by international law and acts in accordance with it,” instead of the enormous humanitarian crisis created by Hamas.
Prison Service commissioner Katy Perry, in a statement Wednesday, said that the Red Cross would not be allowed to visit Palestinian terror prisoners held in Israeli jails until the organization is able to provide assistance to the Israeli hostages in Gaza.
The Israel-Hamas war broke out on October 7 with Hamas’s shock assault, which took the lives of some 1,400 people in Israel, the vast majority of them civilians. More than 240 people were taken captive as Hamas terrorists rampaged through the communities adjacent to Gaza.
Since then, while waging war against Hamas in Gaza, Israel has agitated for the International Red Cross to be allowed to visit the hostages held in the Strip, but so far the terror group has shown little inclination to permit such visits.
The Red Cross has also made multiple statements concerning the war, has cautioned Israel in regards to civilian casualties in Gaza, and is involved with providing humanitarian aid packages to Gaza. When two Israeli-American hostages, Judith and Natalie Raanan, were released by Hamas on October 20, they were first turned over to the Red Cross.