ICRC chief expected in Israel to meet with officials and hostages’ families — report

The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Mirjana Spoljaric Egger, is expected in Israel on Thursday, according to Hebrew media, a week after visiting Egypt and the Gaza Strip for discussions on allowing Red Cross representatives to access the hostages taken from Israel on October 7 and held by Hamas in Gaza for over two months now.

Spoljaric is expected to meet with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, as well as the families of hostages.

Some 138 hostages remain in Gaza of the approximately 240 people taken on October 7. At least 18 among those remaining are dead, according to Israeli defense officials, and terrorists are holding onto their remains.

105 Israeli and foreign hostages were released as part of a weeklong temporary truce deal last month that expired on December 1.

The ICRC has come under fierce criticism in Israel and abroad for not doing more to push for access to the hostages to check on their wellbeing, deliver medications, and facilitate communication with families, per its mandate.

Israel has said that Red Cross visits to the remaining hostages were a stipulation of the truce last month.

In November, Spoljaric met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Qatar for discussions. Her office later said that the “ICRC has persistently called for the immediate release of hostages.”

“Agreements must be reached that allow the ICRC to safely carry out this work. The ICRC cannot force its way in to where hostages are held, nor do we know their location,” her office said.

Spoljaric also met last month with family members of Israeli hostages and with Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and Health Minister Uriel Menachem Buso in Geneva.

“Families of hostages are living through an incredibly heart-wrenching time and I want to underscore how hard we are advocating on behalf of their loved ones,” she said. “This is a key priority for me, and I know the enormous pain the families are enduring.”

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