Daily Israel Report

Shalit in Captivity 900 Days, Red Cross Defends Its Efforts

The head of the Red Cross delegation in Israel claims he has done whatever is possible to make contact with Gilad Shalit, kidnapped 900 says ago.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 12/11/2008, 6:16 AM

Israel News Photo: (Flash 90)

The head of the International Red Cross (ICRC) delegation in Israel said Wednesday he has done whatever is possible to make contact with kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit but has not been able to surpass political obstacles. Shalit was abducted in June, 2006, 900 days ago, in a Hamas terrorist attack at a Gaza crossing, where two other soldiers were killed.

Hamas senior officer Mahmoud al-Zahar on Thursday repeated that Shalit could be freed in "one day" if Israel were to meet its demands and free 1,000 terrorists and open all Gaza crossings, including Rafiah.

International Red Cross delegation head Pierre Wettach said, "We have repeatedly reminded those holding him of their legal obligations, calling on them both publicly and through our direct contacts to treat him humanely.

"The ICRC has repeatedly asked to be allowed to visit Gilad Shalit and to convey family messages to him. In early November, the ICRC requested that Hamas forward to him thousands of letters and greeting cards from various organizations, individuals and schoolchildren. Unfortunately, all these requests have been refused."

He stated that the Red Cross is limited by what international law allows it do concerning visiting prisoners of war, a right that is guaranteed under the Geneva Convention.

"Although our attempts have so far been unsuccessful, we will continue to do everything we can to obtain information on Gilad Shalit's condition, to gain direct access to him, and to establish contact between him and his family. We would like to meet him in private to make an independent assessment of the conditions he is held in and of his state of health.

"The issue is continuously raised at high-level meetings with Hamas. We are pursuing dialogue with all those concerned, as we believe that is essential for achieving progress. We have to talk to those who hold a person's fate in their hands in order to be able to help that person."

Wettach complained that "political considerations have outweighed humanitarian concerns and respect for basic humanitarian principles," but he did not specify whether he was referring to Hamas or Israel, which had been blamed by Hamas for prolonging Shalit's captivity because it has not met its demands.

Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed on June 19 to a Gaza ceasefire that he said was tied to bringing about the release of Shalit.