Red Cross to Hamas: Let us visit Schalit

Organization criticizes terror group for also refusing captured soldier the right to family visits.

carter schalit 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
carter schalit 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Through its contacts with Hamas, The International Committee of the Red Cross is attempting to establish "regular and unconditional" family contact for captive IDF soldier St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit. Since his abduction just outside the Gaza Strip in June 2006, the ICRC has tried to deliver messages to Schalit from his family, but these efforts have not succeeded, Yael Segev-Eytan, spokeswoman for the ICRC in Israel, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. "It is Hamas's legal obligation under international humanitarian law to allow him regular contact with his family," she said. "We will use every means at our disposal to get in contact with [Schalit], but it is ultimately up to [Hamas] to implement the law and open the door for us to free Gilad." All requests for contact and information on the status of the captive tank gunner have been refused by Hamas. The ICRC has been in contact with Hamas officials located in both Gaza and Damascus. On Tuesday, former US president Jimmy Carter gave Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh a letter from Schalit's parents to be passed along to him. Carter successfully arranged for the delivery of a letter from Schalit to his parents in June 2008. While it would be a positive step for a letter to reach Schalit, 22, there was no way of knowing whether he received Tuesday's letter, Segev-Eytan said. The ICRC hopes to gain regular access to Schalit, to assess his physical and psychological health. "Hamas stated right after his capture that Gilad has been treated humanly," she said. "But we cannot confirm that unless we see it with our own eyes." In his speech at Bar-Ilan University on Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said: "Hamas will not even allow the Red Cross to visit our kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit, who has spent three years in captivity, cut off from his parents, his family and his people. We are committed to bringing him home, healthy and safe." The ICRC views Netanyahu's statement as indicating support by the government for its efforts. The organization has held several meeting with Schalit's parents, Noam and Aviva, to update them on its continued efforts to contact their son.