International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) President Peter Maurer (L) shakes hands with Hamas Gaza Chief Yehya Al-Sinwar during their meeting in Gaza City September 5, 2017..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The International Committee of the Red Cross this week followed up on its request to Hamas in June to “clarify the fate” of the Israelis it holds in the Gaza Strip. ICRC delegates met with Hamas strongman Yahya Sinwar and repeated its request, so far unanswered, for the basic humanitarian right to visit the captives.
“The right to know the fate of missing relatives is a fundamental principle of humanitarian law,” the ICRC said in a statement in June. “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 apparently referred to a Hebrew-language music video released by Hamas’s armed wing, Izzadin Kassam, which taunted the parents of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, two IDF soldiers killed in action during Operation Defensive Shield in 2014.
The Islamists seek to use their remains as bargaining chips to gain the release of recidivist terrorists who were rearrested for acts of terrorism after being released in the 2011 Gilad Schalit prisoner deal. The propaganda video callously played on the parents’ grief, claiming that the two were actually alive and being held captive.
The jihadist regime that controls the Gaza Strip had also held two presumably alive Israeli civilians, Hisham al-Sayed and Avraham Mengistu, since April 2015 and September 2014, respectively. The two men were captured after they crossed the border into Gaza, presumably suffering from mental illness.
“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.”
Jacques de Maio, head of the ICRC in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, declared that “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. 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 the Schalit trade of 1,027 terrorists for one Israeli soldier, said, “Hamas will not reveal anything about the fate of the soldiers missing in Gaza without a price,” indicating that the terrorist organization intends to use the missing soldiers as bargaining chips with Israel.
In May, Human Rights Watch condemned Hamas’s illegal detention of the two Israeli civilians who are believed to be mentally ill.
The terrorist group, which took control of Gaza from Fatah in a bloody 2007 coup, has not released any details of their condition or allowed rights groups to visit them.
Alyona Synenko, an ICRC spokeswoman, said she could not confirm the details of Tuesday’s meeting between Red Cross chairman Peter Maurer and Sinwar, other than that Maurer repeated his request for permission to visit the captive Israelis.
She said only that the issue was one of many they discussed.
Hamas’s website said only that Sinwar “affirmed that all institutions will be open for the Red Cross to verify that standards of international humanitarian law are being implemented.”
This would indeed be the politically correct statement to make, but Israel should not wait for this arch-terrorist to keep his promise.
Three months ago, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman slammed international human rights groups for not even trying to contact the captives.
He declared then that Israel would suspend humanitarian improvements for Gaza residents until “the Red Cross at least visits them [the captives].”
Until that happens, Israel must not yield to any further Hamas demands, but instead should offer the jihadists reciprocity. No more visits to Hamas terrorists serving sentences in Israeli prisons would be a good start.