The International Committee of the Red Cross on Thursday urged the Hamas terrorist organization to clarify the fate of the five missing Israeli nationals it allegedly holds in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas is thought to hold three Israelis who entered the Strip illegally as well as the remains of two soldiers killed in fighting in 2014. The group has refused to confirm who it is holding or what their condition is.
“The right to know the fate of missing relatives is a fundamental principle of humanitarian law,” the ICRC said in a statement. “Yet, recent video clips portraying the missing Israeli nationals and their families are giving rise to new speculations about their fate and adding to their families’ anguish.”
The statement came two months after Hamas’s military wing released a Hebrew-language music video that taunts the parents of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, two Israeli soldiers presumed killed in action in a war with the terror group, claiming the men are actually alive and captives in Gaza.
The Islamist terror group, which runs Gaza, is also believed to be holding Israeli civilians Hisham al-Sayed and Avraham Mengistu since April 2015 and September 2014, respectively, after they sneaked into the blockaded Palestinian enclave. Both are thought to suffer from mental illness.
A third man, Jumaa Abu Ghanima, entered Gaza in July 2016, but there is no further information on him and it is unclear if he was arrested or joined a militant group.
“Missing persons, regardless of their status – fallen or captured soldiers during fighting, or civilians taken captive by an adverse party – are protected by humanitarian law,” the ICRC said. “They and their families must be shown due regard under the law.”
We urge Hamas to clarify the fate of the five missing Israeli nationals; https://t.co/4PLA1jQHRq
— ICRC in Israel & OT (@ICRC_ilot) June 8, 2017
Despite never recovering their bodies, the army has established that both Goldin and Shaul were killed in separate incidents during the summer 2014 war between Israel and Hamas. It maintains that the remains were seized by the terrorist group as bargaining chips.
“Persons captured alive must be accounted for and treated humanely. Human remains, too, must be handled with dignity, identified and returned to the families concerned,” said Jacques de Maio, the head of the ICRC’s delegation in Israel and Palestinian territories. “These are among the most widely accepted rules of warfare.”
In April 2015 Ruhi Mushtaha, a senior Hamas official who was released from prison as part of a deal that secured freedom for kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, said “Hamas will not reveal anything about the fate of the soldiers missing in Gaza without a price,” indicating that Hamas intends to use the missing soldiers as bargaining chips with Israel.
— وكالة شهاب (@ShehabAgency) April 20, 2017
Hamas media has claimed the other captives are soldiers, but Human Rights Watch said in a report that Mengistu was rejected by the Israel Defense Forces on medical grounds and Sayed was discharged after a few months of service.
In May HRW condemned the “illegal” detention of the Israelis.
— Sari Bashi (@saribashi) May 3, 2017
The terror group, which took control of Gaza in 2007, has not released any details on their condition or allowed rights groups to visit them.
Hamas is demanding the release of a number of its members from Israeli jails before it will publish information about the men.