Daily Israel Report

Red Cross Justifies Hosting Hamas Leaders

Three wanted Hamas leaders have taken refuge in Red Cross offices in Jerusalem – while Hamas prevents ICRC from visiting Gilad Shalit in Gaza.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 9/6/2010, 11:32 AM / Last Update: 9/6/2010, 12:32 PM

ICRC.org

Three wanted Hamas leaders have taken refuge in Red Cross offices in Jerusalem – while Hamas prevents RC from visiting Gilad Shalit in Gaza. A rally demanding Israeli action and protesting the Red Cross will be held at Red Cross offices tonight.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has given “asylum” to three Hamas leaders who fear that the Israeli police might arrest and/or deport them. The three have been there for 40 days. Israel is clearly hesitant to arrest them on Red Cross premises, for fear of “how it will look” – and the standoff continues.

Meanwhile, the three have opened a type of headquarters at the Red Cross, with visitors and journalists constantly coming and going. Hamas took responsibility for last week’s terrorist murders of four Jews near Hevron and for an attempt to kill two more the next night.

Israel National News (INN) spoke to stand-in ICRC spokesperson Cecilia Goin, who explained, “We have made it clear that if the police come to arrest them, we do not have extra-territorial status and we will do nothing to stop the police.”

Asked, “Why, then, are you letting them live on your premises?” Goin explained that the ICRC considers eastern Jerusalem “occupied territory” and that the three Hamas men "are considered protected persons under international humanitarian law, as stated in Article 4 of the Fourth Geneva Convention."

“Interpretation of that article is a matter of dispute," INN noted, “but why is the ICRC not consistent with its interpretation and protecting the Hamas men from what it feels would be an illegal arrest by Israel?” Goin reiterated that the ICRC could not/would not prevent the Israeli police from arresting them.

What About Gilad Shalit?
Another question hovering in the air was the question of Gilad Shalit. Goin explained that the ICRC has met several times with Hamas regarding Shalit, “and each time we demanded that we be allowed to visit with Gilad Shalit, or at least to pass him the thousands of letters, cards and messages that are stored in our Gaza office for him. But each time, Hamas has refused.”

“On the one hand,” INN asked, “Hamas is not letting you visit Shalit, while on the other hand, you host Hamas leaders – not in order to protect them, because you say you will not block their arrest, but giving them a platform for the media, etc. – who are representatives of the very organization holding Shalit and not allowing you to visit him. Is this a case of one ICRC arm not being aware of what the other is doing, or simply a double standard at Israel’s expense?”

The spokesperson repeated that Hamas is not allowing ICRC to visit Shalit, despite its attempts, and that the Hamas leaders are receiving humanitarian protection.

A protest will be held outside the Jerusalem Red Cross offices at 6 PM this evening (Monday) demanding that both Israel and the ICRC put an end to the situation. David Ish-Shalom, organizer of the protest, says, “Just last week, Hamas took ‘credit’ for murdering four Jews near Hevron – and now, its leaders are guests of the Red Cross, right in the heart of Jerusalem [the Shimon HaTzaddik/Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood]. The Israeli security forces deserve great credit for pursuing terrorists, but isn’t it about time that Hamas leaders – who in this case happen to be only 100 meters from the city’s police headquarters – should be caught as well?”

“While Gilad Shalit does not receive any visits from the ICRC or anyone,” Ish-Shalom continues, “the ICRC itself hosts Hamas on its premises. We will protest outside the ICRC for as long as this dangerous, absurd and sick situation continues.”

ICRC Doesn't See Hamas as a Terror Org
Sam Sokol of the Five Towns Jewish Times originally reported six weeks ago that the ICRC does not categorize Hamas as a terrorist organization. “It is not up to the ICRC… to confer a particular status on people or organizations or to recognize their legitimacy,” a spokesperson said, adding that the Red Cross differentiates between the "militant" and "political" wings of terrorist organizations.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said that Israel does not accept this distinction, Sokol reported: “Distinguishing between a military branch and a ‘political’ or ‘charitable’ branch of a terror group is like distinguishing between the two hands of a convicted murderer,” Palmor said.