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Israel-Hamas: What Is The Role Red Cross In Delicate Hostage Crises?

As the world closely watches the release of hostages by Hamas in the aftermath of its massive attack on Israel on October 7, 2023, one organization stands at the heart of the delicate handover process – the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). In the midst of the ongoing Israel-Gaza war, the Red Cross has played a vital but often understated role in facilitating the safe release of hostages, showcasing the organization’s commitment to its humanitarian mission.

Red Cross Facilitates Releases:

Images and footage of the hostage releases depict Red Cross staff, adorned in their distinctive white vests bearing the iconic emblem, assisting hostages as they transition to freedom. The ICRC has been in communication with Hamas since the initial seizure of approximately 240 people during the October 7 attack, advocating for their release and requesting access to provide aid and support.

To date, the ICRC has overseen the release of 58 hostages, including 40 Israelis and 12 Thais. While the organization was not directly involved in negotiating the terms of the release, it stood ready to facilitate the process once terms were agreed upon.

Challenges and Criticisms:

Despite the Red Cross’s efforts, some criticisms have emerged from Israel, suggesting that the ICRC could have done more. In response, the organization clarified that it cannot forcibly enter locations where hostages are held, emphasizing that it operates within the constraints of its mandate. The Red Cross is unarmed and depends entirely on the trust of conflicting parties and civilians to carry out its crucial work.

Logistical Complexity:

The logistical intricacies of the hostage releases are not new to the ICRC. Last year, the organization facilitated the release of nearly 900 prisoners in Yemen amid the conflict between Houthi rebels and Saudi-backed government troops. This operation required meticulous planning, including health assessments of each prisoner, chartering planes into conflict zones, and ensuring a smooth transition.

Historical Role of the Red Cross:

The ICRC’s involvement in facilitating hostage releases aligns with its historical role under the Geneva Conventions. Its responsibilities include tracing missing individuals, visiting prisoners of war, ensuring their well-being, and facilitating communication between POWs and their families. The Red Cross museum in Geneva houses a rich archive illustrating this role, featuring six million registration cards detailing prisoners and the missing from two world wars.

Adapting to Evolving Conflicts:

Over the years, the ICRC has adapted its work to address the changing nature of conflicts. Armed militias and the widespread detention of civilians have become common, challenging the Red Cross to fulfill its mission of reuniting families separated by war. From Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment in apartheid South Africa to the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, the ICRC has consistently played a pivotal role.

As the Israel-Gaza war unfolds, the International Committee of the Red Cross remains a beacon of humanitarianism, navigating the complexities of conflict to facilitate the release of hostages. While the organization may not be directly involved in negotiations, its unwavering commitment to providing aid, ensuring well-being, and reuniting families underscores the timeless importance of its mission, offering a glimmer of hope amid the challenges of modern warfare.

For more updates stay tuned to FELA News!

Source: BBC

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