After four years, ICRC goes public with criticism of Israeli policy preventing visits of families from Gaza to Palestinian detainees in Israel

In its own special way, the ICRC has gone public with criticism of Israeli policy that has prevented family visits — for fully the past four years — to Palestinian detainees from Gaza being held in Israel prisons.

A media announcement has been released (this is going public) and a somewhat stilted video has been released (part of it viewable from the ICRC website here).

On the same webpage, the ICRC gives this explanation: “Gaza detainees barred from family visits: In June 2007, the Israeli authorities announced the suspension of family visits for Palestinians from Gaza who were being held in Israel. This decision, which was made a year after Palestinian armed groups captured the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, deprives both the detainees and their relatives of an essential lifeline, and cuts detainees off from the outside world. In the past four years, over 700 families from Gaza have been prevented from seeing their detained relatives”.

Almost simultaneously (though I didn’t see this until later), the ICRC Director-General Yves Daccord issued a statement in Geneva saying that “The total absence of information concerning Mr Shalit is completely unacceptable … The Shalit family have the right under international humanitarian law to be in contact with their son … Hamas has an obligation under international humanitarian law to protect Mr. Shalit’s life, to treat him humanely and to let him have contact with his family”.

The statement noted that “The ICRC continues to make every possible effort to gain access to Mr Shalit or at least to establish contact between him and his family”.

And, the statement said that “The ICRC has called on Hamas repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, to allow Mr Shalit to exchange family news with his loved ones. It has also reiterated on several occasions its request for access to Mr Shalit, but Hamas has never acquiesced. Because there has been no sign of life from Mr Shalit for almost two years, the ICRC is now demanding that Hamas prove that he is alive”.

In response, an ICRC representative apparently told Israel Radio that the organization had been carrying out “secret talks” {no doubt, the word was “confidential”} for five years with Hamas about Gilad Shalit.

On the other hand, according to a report by Ma’an News Agency, “Palestinians threw eggs at the international Red Cross office in Gaza on Thursday to protest against a call for Hamas to show signs a captured Israeli soldier was still alive. Dozens of angry protesters also chanted slogans against the International Committee of the Red Cross and ripped down and destroyed the Red Cross sign over the office”. This report is published here.

According to Ma’an, the protest was organized by a Palestinian prisoners organization which “said the Red Cross should focus on the plight of the thousands of Palestinians in Israeli jails. ‘The world and its Red Cross cry for one Israeli prisoner and try to forget thousands of Palestinian prisoners’, one banner said. The most recent reports from the Palestinian Authority say 6,000 Palestinians are being detained in Israeli prisons, including 219 in Administrative Detention who are held without charge”.

The Ma’an story added that “Hamas, while not directly rejecting the Red Cross call, said Shalit would be freed only once Israel released Palestinian prisoners. ‘We will only consider resolving the Shalit issue if the issue of Palestinian prisoners in the occupation’s prisons is resolved’, said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. Indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas for a deal that would see 1,000 Palestinians released in exchange for Shalit have been stalled for over a year … The last proof Shalit alive was in October 2009 when Hamas released a video of him calling on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to do everything to free him”.

Meanwhile, the Schalit family is not happy either.   Haaretz is reporting <a href=”″>here</a> that “The family of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit denounced Thursday the way the International Red Cross has been handling Shalit’s captivity, and demanded that the aid agency be more resolute against Hamas.  ‘We demand that the Red Cross’ approach be more active and decisive’, Noam Shalit, Gilad’s father, said after Hamas on Thursday dismissed the agency’s call that they provide proof that Shalit is still alive.  ‘I would like to believe that they would give us a sign of life from Gilad. We are conducting ongoing dialogue with the Red Cross but it has not been much help, I did not hear them condemn Hamas on its crime against Gilad. The Red Cross has been a complete failure in this affair’.”

Then,  just to make everything perfect, Haaretz reported this evening that “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Thursday that he plans on toughening the conditions of Palestinian security prisoners in Israel’s prisons.  ‘I have decided to change Israel’s treatment of terrorists sitting in prison’, Netanyahu said during the closing statements at the Presidential Conference in Jerusalem. ‘We will give them all that they deserve according to international law but nothing beyond that’.”

Who started this?

2 thoughts on “After four years, ICRC goes public with criticism of Israeli policy preventing visits of families from Gaza to Palestinian detainees in Israel”

  1. Why should Israel give Hamas prisoners any more rights than Hamas gives kidnapped Israelis? These prisoners have been convicted of serious crimes. Unlike Gilad Shalit, they receive letters, parcels, visits from attorneys and other approved people, and the company of compatriots who speak the same language. Their families receive letters from them.

    Gilad Shalit, who is guilty of nothing other than being Jewish, was kidnapped from his country and brought to an enemy land. He has been held incommunicado for five years – no letters, no parcels, no visits from the Red Cross or anyone else, no word from his family. He has not been heard from for over two years. His family has no idea whether he is alive or dead. Israel is unable to help him and France, the country of his birth and where he is a citizen, has turned its back.

    I have no sympathy at all for the Gazan prisoners, nor for anyone who feels sorry for them.

    1. Israel, as a responsible state, should give correct care and conditions to all the prisoners it is holding, regardless of what others are doing.

      Here, I should add that Israel should release prisoners it has kidnapped from other countries (such as Lebanon), and should abolish the system of Administrative Detention, and the whole military court system in the occupied West Bank.

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