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Red Cross chief to meet families of October 7 hostages

Red Cross chief to meet families of October 7 hostages held in Gaza
3 min read
17 November, 2023
ICRC's President Mirjana Spoljaric has said that the captives’ release is a ‘key priority'
ICRC's President Mirjana Spoljaric has announced that the organisation is set to facilitate the hostages' release [Getty]

The Red Cross head will on Tuesday meet family members of several of the 240 people held by Hamas in Gaza, the organisation said.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and Health Minister Uriel Menachem Buso will also take part in the meeting in Geneva with International Committee of the Red Cross president Mirjana Spoljaric, the ICRC said.

"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," Spoljaric said.

"This is a key priority for me, and I know the enormous pain the families are enduring."

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Hamas' October 7 attack led to the death of around 1,200 people - mostly soldiers, and the taking of around 240 hostages, according to Israeli officials.

Israel's relentless bombardment and swelling ground offensive in the besieged Gaza Strip has already killed over 11,000 people, mostly Palestinian women and children.

The ICRC stressed that it had persistently been advocating on behalf of the hostages held in Gaza, including through direct contacts with Hamas and with others holding influence over the parties.

"Hostage-taking is prohibited under international humanitarian law. We continue to insist on the hostages' release and are doing everything in our power to gain access to them," Spoljaric said.

"We are deeply concerned that children, the elderly, people with disabilities and other vulnerable people are among those held," she said.

"We will not stop working for their release."

Spoljaric insisted however: "We cannot do this alone; agreements must be reached that allow the ICRC to safely carry out this work."

"ICRC cannot force its way in to where hostages are held. We can only visit them when agreements, including safe access, are in place."

The organisation said it was continuing to request information on the hostages and their current health condition, adding that it was also working to clarify the fates of those as yet unaccounted for.

"The hostages must be treated humanely, have access to medical care, and be able to communicate with their loved ones," it said.

"The ICRC stands ready to facilitate their release, as it has done for four hostages so far."

While advocating for the release of the hostages, the organisation stressed that it works to aid victims on all sides of the conflict.

In recent weeks, it said it had "stepped up" its humanitarian response in Gaza, especially its support of emergency health care "amid the dangerous and chaotic conditions".

"Given the devastating humanitarian impacts in Gaza and Israel, we continue to urge the parties to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law and, in particular, to spare civilians from the conduct of military operations," it said.