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Crossing red lines

Goldman, Balint express ‘profound concern’ about Red Cross’ response to Oct. 7, hostage situation

‘We request answers… regarding why your organization has failed to properly execute its duty to ensure [the hostages’] care and protection,’ the lawmakers wrote to the ICRC

Workers and staff unload medical aid delivered by the International Committee of the Red Cross at Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 9, 2023, amid continuing battles between Israel and Hamas in the Palestinian territory.

AFP via Getty Images

Workers and staff unload medical aid delivered by the International Committee of the Red Cross at Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 9, 2023, amid continuing battles between Israel and Hamas in the Palestinian territory.

Reps. Dan Goldman (D-NY) and Becca Balint (D-VT) condemned the International Committee of the Red Cross’ response to the Oct. 7 attack on Israel and ongoing hostage situation in a letter to the president of the humanitarian organization sent on Monday morning.

“We write to express our profound concern at your lack of response to the recent war crimes perpetrated by terrorist organizations Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (“PIJ”), including the illegal abduction of civilian hostages following the brutal events of October 7 and their continued captivity in horrific conditions,” the lawmakers, who are both Jewish, wrote.

The lawmakers said that they “do not accept Hamas’s refusal to allow the ICRC to visit the hostages and urge you to do all that you can to provide care and protection of the hostages.”

“Given the widely-known depravity of the conditions of captivity, and the lack of public statements from the ICRC regarding such conditions or demanding access to the Hostages, we request answers to the questions enumerated below regarding why your organization has failed to properly execute its duty to ensure their care and protection, including the role, if any, that Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other countries in the region have played in assisting or obstructing your efforts,” the letter continues.

Highlighting the grave reports from released hostages and the dire conditions of the remaining hostages, they argued that the ICRC’s “intervention to attend to the hostages is required immediately.”

The two lawmakers requested information on the ICRC’s efforts to gain access to the hostages, including contacts with terrorist groups, international governments and other international organizations; what assistance the ICRC needs to gain access to the hostages; what Congress can do to aid these efforts and what communications the ICRC has conducted with hostage families.

Goldman and Balint noted that Hamas and PIJ have refused to provide proof of life or allow the ICRC to visit the hostages and highlighted reports that Hamas has been sexually abusing its hostages, in addition to accounts of beatings, starvation and inumane holding conditions.

They also said that the ICRC’s inability to access the hostages is a departure from its activities in prior conflicts, even ones involving significant danger.

The letter comes amid intensifying scrutiny of the ICRC’s response to the Hamas conflict, driven in part by the families of the hostages. In meetings with lawmakers over the past two months, they have frequently urged lawmakers to put more pressure on the ICRC to fulfill its duties and communicate with the families.

Goldman and Balint are not in full alignment regarding the conflict. Goldman has adopted a more pro-Israel stance than Balint, who was the first Jewish lawmaker to call for a cease-fire.

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