Red Cross officials have assured an all-party delegation of MPs that they are continuing to pressure armed factions in Gaza to allow them to visit captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, held captive for more than two years.
“We have made it clear that the Shalit case is very high on our list of priorities and we deplore the fact that our delegates have been refused access to him,” a spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said after the meeting in London on Wednesday.
The MPs, Tories Alistair Burt and James Arbuthnot (chair of Conservative Friends of Israel), Labour’s Andrew Gwynne (chair of Labour Friends of Israel) and Liberal Democrat Sir Alan Beith, were encouraged by the International Director of the British Red Cross, Matthias Schmale, to continue political pressure on the soldier’s behalf.
The more the case was raised, he said, the better the chance that the Red Cross would be able to gain access to Mr Shalit.
Mr Burt, who launched a Europe -wide initiative on behalf of the soldier at the European Friends of Israel conference in Paris last month, said: “The Red Cross has been at the forefront of campaigning for the captive and we hope that across Europe the voices of parliamentarians might add to the many who see the injustice of holding Gilad Shalit.”
Mr Gwynne pointed out that the meeting with Mr Schmale had taken place on the 900th day of the soldier’s captivity. “With the end of the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas looming, the conditions for negotiating his release are looking bleaker,” he said.
“In violation of international law, Hamas has not allowed the International Red Cross to visit Gilad and ascertain his state of health.”
Pierre Wettach, head of the International Red Cross’s delegation to Israel, said in a report on the organisation’s website that the ICRC had been working hard to obtain access to Shalit.
“We have repeatedly reminded those holding him of their legal obligations, calling on them publicly and through our direct contacts to treat him humanely.”