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Israel questions Red Cross neutrality over protest

Israel questions Red Cross neutrality over protest

Israel on Monday sought clarifications from the International Committee of the Red Cross, following a demonstration outside the organization's Gaza headquarters Monday by families of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.
Every week for the past six years, relatives of prisoners have rallied outside the Red Cross building, demanding that Israel release several thousand Palestinian security prisoners.
A Red Cross organizer said Monday's event was special, marking the fourth anniversary of Israel's refusal to allow Gaza families to visit prisoners. Israel bans most Gazans from entering Israel. At one of the regular Gaza protests several weeks ago, the ICRC included a demand to Hamas, which rules Gaza, to allow visits to Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, captured five years ago.
At Monday's event, Associated Press Television video showed speakers addressing the crowd from a podium emblazoned with the Red Cross emblem. Workers in Red Cross jackets were shown in the crowd.
A Geneva-based spokesman, Hicham Hassan, said the ICRC in Gaza screened a film Monday about the family visits and organized a "human chain which symbolizes the importance of maintaining family links."
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Red Cross involvement in the event appeared to violate its code of neutrality.
The Red Cross is "forbidden from taking part in political demonstrations by their own mission statement, so an infringement on their own rules is totally unacceptable and it harms the credibility and the neutrality of the ICRC," Palmor said. "We will seek clarifications from ICRC headquarters in Switzerland, and if we don't get any clear explanation on what happened, this will be a severe blow to the ICRC to operate in this country."
Maria Cecilia Goin, a local representative, said the ICRC organized the event in Gaza.
Another official, insisting on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the affair, confirmed that the ICRC's "colleagues in Gaza" invited reporters.
Hassan said it is normal for ICRC workers to attend the weekly protests outside the Red Cross building, but that they do not actively participate in demonstrations calling for the release of Palestinian prisoners.
Israel's Prisons Service says it is holding 5,400 Palestinians on security charges.


Updated : 2021-04-21 17:16 GMT+08:00