The Red Cross announced Monday evening that its president had traveled to Qatar to meet with the Palestinian leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, to “advance humanitarian issues related to the armed conflict in Israel and Gaza,” the Palestinian-ruled territory for this movement.
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“President Mirjana Spoljaric met with Ismaïl Haniyeh, head of the political office of Hamas, and separately with Qatari authorities,” the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement.
The visit comes as Qatar, which is mediating to try to secure the release of Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip, said on Sunday that only “very minor” obstacles remained to a deal.
According to the ICRC, the visit of Ms. Spoljaric is part of efforts to hold “direct talks with all parties to improve respect for international humanitarian law.”
It emphasizes that its president has also met “on multiple occasions in recent weeks with families of hostages held in Gaza, as well as senior Israeli and Palestinian officials.”
In this sense, the ICRC “insists that (its) teams are authorized to visit the hostages to ensure their well-being and administer medicine, and so that the hostages can communicate with their families.”
“Agreements must be reached that allow the ICRC to carry out its work safely. The ICRC cannot forcefully enter the places where the hostages are being held, nor do we know where they are,” the statement continued.
The Israeli military estimates that around 240 people were taken hostage in the Gaza Strip during Hamas’ unprecedented October 7 attack on Israeli territory. This left around 1,200 dead in Israel, mostly civilians, according to a report by Israeli authorities.
In retaliation, Israel has relentlessly bombed the Gaza Strip and since October 27 has been carrying out a ground operation with the aim of “exterminating” the Islamist movement in power in the besieged Palestinian territory. These Israeli attacks on Gaza left more than 13,300 dead, including more than 5,600 children, according to the Hamas government.