Israeli group accuses Red Cross of ‘biased and apathetic’ response to Gaza hostages

In response to legal complaint filed by Shurat Hadin, ICRC spokesman says organization still in talks with Hamas to try to gain access to captives

Demonstrators calling upon the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to take action for the release of hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 and currently held in the Gaza Strip, outside the ICRC offices in Tel Aviv on November 9, 2023. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
Demonstrators calling upon the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to take action for the release of hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 and currently held in the Gaza Strip, outside the ICRC offices in Tel Aviv on November 9, 2023. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

An Israeli advocacy group said Thursday that it had filed a legal complaint against the Red Cross, accusing the humanitarian organization of inaction and bias over Israeli hostages held by terrorists in Gaza.

The Shurat Hadin nonprofit, which wages legal battles worldwide often on behalf of Israeli victims of terror, filed a complaint in Jerusalem on behalf of the families of 24 hostages, out of the 129 still held in the Strip following the release of some of the over 240 people abducted by Hamas terrorists during the deadly October 7 onslaught in southern Israel.

The group criticized the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for allegedly “failing to act to fulfill its mandate and moral duty to visit the kidnapped Israelis held in Gaza, assure their wellbeing and fight for their release.”

Contacted by AFP, the ICRC said it had continuously called for the release of the hostages since the Hamas onslaught, with a spokesman adding that “we are pained and frustrated when we do not have access to people who need our help.”

According to Shurat Hadin, the ICRC was slow to intervene and did not act firmly to facilitate visits or “try to supply the medicines required to the hostages.”

“We cannot accept this disregard and disrespect for human lives, just because the hostages are Jewish,” charged Shurat Hadin head, Nitsana Darshan Leitner.

“The ICRC is simply biased and apathetic to Israeli lives,” she said in a statement.

A Red Cross convoy carrying Israeli hostages heads to Egypt from the Gaza Strip at the Rafah border crossing on November 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

ICRC spokesman Jason Straziuso said the organization has “been meeting with Hamas at all levels and undertaking humanitarian diplomacy efforts to gain access to people being held, to be able to visit them and bring the necessary items, like medicines.”

“We continue our efforts to gain access to people still held in Gaza,” Straziuso added. “The bulk of this work takes place behind closed doors.”

Earlier this week, the president of the ICRC insisted on the organization’s neutrality and said criticism was making it increasingly hard to operate in the conflict.

The Swiss-based organization was founded 160 years ago as a neutral intermediary in conflicts and to visit and assist prisoners of war.

Throughout the years, it has been heavily criticized by various countries and bodies for what is perceived to be its failure to intervene or assist those most affected by human rights violations.

Most notably, they are viewed as having failed to help Jewish people during the Holocaust despite touring concentration camps and having connections with Nazi officials. More recently, in June 2023, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky declared the organization to be a moral failure amid the country’s ongoing war against Russia following the latter’s invasion.

Israel’s ongoing war with Hamas in Gaza was triggered by the October 7 assault on southern Israel, when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists poured into Israel from the land, air and sea, slaughtering some 1,200 people and seizing around 240 hostages during attacks launched on more than 20 different communities.

An Israeli protests against the Red Cross at Hostage Square in Tel Aviv, December 14, 2023. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

In response, Israel launched an aerial campaign and subsequent ground invasion, vowing to eliminate Hamas from the Gaza Strip and end its 16-year rule.

According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, some 20,000 people have been killed since the start of the war, most of them civilians. These figures cannot be independently verified and are believed to include some 8,000 Hamas terrorists, according to Israel, as well as civilians killed by misfired Palestinian rockets. Another estimated 1,000 terrorists were killed in Israel during the October 7 onslaught.

It is believed that 129 hostages remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November. Four hostages were released prior to that, and one was rescued by troops.

The bodies of eight hostages have also been recovered and three hostages were mistakenly killed by the military. The Israel Defense Forces has confirmed the deaths of 21 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.

Hamas has also been holding the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014, as well as two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are both thought to be alive after entering the Strip of their own accord in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

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