Israel urges pope, heads of UN and Red Cross to act ‘urgently’ to free Gaza captives

The families of Israeli captives and slain IDF soldiers held in Gaza meet with Pope Francis in the Vatican, December 21, 2022. (Israel's Embassy in the Vatican)
The families of Israeli captives and slain IDF soldiers held in Gaza meet with Pope Francis in the Vatican, December 21, 2022. (Israel's Embassy in the Vatican)

Israel’s Foreign Ministry says it has sent a letter to prominent leaders of international bodies, asking them to “urgently” act for the release of Israeli civilians and the remains of IDF soldiers held captive by the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip.

The letter has been sent to Pope Francis, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Red Cross President Mirjana Spoljaric Egger, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and other senior UN officials.

It comes a day after Hamas released a video purportedly showing captive Avera Mengistu. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indicated Israel views the clip as authentic.

The ministry urges the international leaders to condemn Hamas, noting that Mengistu has been held for over eight years “in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law, without providing information about his health condition and without providing any way for him to contact his family or receive visits by the Red Cross.”

Apart from Mengistu, civilian Hisham al-Sayed is being held by Hamas — the Palestinian terror group has also released footage of him in captivity — alongside the remains of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.

The Foreign Ministry statement notes that Pope Francis met last month with the families of the four captives and promised to help return them.

Describing their return as a “moral obligation” of the government, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen says: “We will continue to act on the international stage to reveal the cruel face of terror group Hamas until they are returned home.”

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