Ismail Haniyeh
Ismail HaniyehReuters

Mirjana Spoljaric, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, on Monday visited Qatar where she met with the head of Hamas’ political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh.

To date, the Red Cross has not been permitted to visit the more than 200 hostages who have been held by Hamas in Gaza since its deadly terrorist attack against Israel on October 7.

“The ICRC continues to appeal for the urgent protection of all victims in the conflict, and for the alleviation of the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza strip. ICRC staff in Gaza have been delivering life-saving assistance, and an ICRC surgical team continues to perform operations. The ICRC is calling for sustained, safe humanitarian access so it can increase its work,” the ICRC said in a statement following Spoljaric’s visit to Qatar.

“The ICRC has persistently called for the immediate release of hostages. The ICRC is insisting that our teams be allowed to visit the hostages to check on their welfare and deliver medications, and for the hostages to be able to communicate with their families. Agreements must be reached that allow the ICRC to safely carry out this work. The ICRC cannot force its way in to where hostages are held, nor do we know their location,” it added.

The statement noted that the ICRC “does not take part in negotiations leading to the release of hostages. As a neutral humanitarian intermediary, we remain ready to facilitate any future release that the parties to the conflict agree to, as ICRC staff have already done on two occasions.”

“The visit by President Spoljaric is a part of the ICRC’s direct discussions with all sides to improve respect for international humanitarian law. President Spoljaric has also met multiple times in recent weeks with families of hostages held in Gaza, as well as senior Israeli and Palestinian leaders,” it concluded.

Last week, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, Health Minister Uriel Busso and representatives of the families of the hostages met with Spoljaric in Geneva and demanded that she ensure that the Red Cross visit the Israeli hostages held in Gaza and provide medical treatment to the hostages who need it.

Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Spoljaric and demanded that the Red Cross seek the immediate release of the Israeli hostages, as required by international law.

The Prime Minister also demanded that the Red Cross uphold its right to immediately visit all the hostages to verify their safety and health.