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Red Cross Demands Family Visits For Palestinian Prisoners

Gaza: Red Cross Demands Family Visits For Palestinian Prisoners

Report – By Julie Webb-Pullman in Gaza.

Monday 11 July: Irfan Sulejmani, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) sub-delegation in Gaza, today called on the Israeli Government to permit the families of Gazan prisoners held in Israeli jails to be permitted visits.

He made the call at an event at the ICRC headquarters in Gaza City to commemorate four years since Israel suspended family visits to Gazan prisoners.

Hundreds of family members carrying photographs of their relatives were present, some of whom also addressed the crowd, before setting off to form a human chain from the ICRC headquarters to the Square of the Unknown Soldier in the centre of Gaza City.


The only way she can hug her dad.

The human chain was chosen to emphasise that this is the only way in which family members and detainees can have contact – by sending messages along such a chain from Gaza, to the prisons and desert detention camps in Israel.

The ICRC also launched a documentary called Unbearable Waste, which highlights the suffering caused to the families and detainees by the Israeli policy.

The ICRC has come under severe criticism - even egg-throwing attacks – for its recent demands to be allowed access to French-Israeli citizen Gilad Shalit, captured while serving in the Israeli army in 2006 and still being held by Gazan authorities. Hamas authorities – and most Gazans – fear that Israel would take advantage of such a visit to identify the location at which he is being held, and attempt to free him. It would not be the first time the Red Cross has been used in such a way. (1)

“Gaza has only one Israeli prisoner, while Israel has more than 6,000 Palestinian prisoners, over 600 of them from Gaza” one person told me. “We would have no bargaining power at all without Shalit, and no hope of seeing many of our relatives again. The international community, the United Nations, they all demand Shalit’s rights, but when do you hear them demanding the rights of all the Palestinians in Israeli jails, or the rights of their families?” he asked.

It is a valid question, and one these hundreds of Gazan mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, deserve an answer to.*

(1) The classic example is the infamous double-cross in Colombia in 2008, when French-Colombian captive Ingrid Betancourt was freed http://articles.cnn.com/2008-07-15/world/colombia.red.cross_1_red-cross-emblem-farc-rebels-military-contractors?_s=PM:WORLD

*************

Julie Webb-Pullman (click to view previous articles) is a New Zealand based freelance writer who has reported for Scoop since 2003. She recently managed to get into Gaza during a brief period when the Rafah Gate was open.

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