Red Cross chief arrives in Gaza, calls for political solution

05 Dec 2023 09:25am
Displaced Palestinians who fled from Khan Yunis, build shelters in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Dec 4. - Photo by AFP
Displaced Palestinians who fled from Khan Yunis, build shelters in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Dec 4. - Photo by AFP

GENEVA - The president of the Red Cross arrived in war-torn Gaza on Monday, describing the human suffering as "immense" and calling for a "political solution" to end the fighting in the Palestinian territory.

Mirjana Spoljaric, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said that the organisation would "do its utmost to help alleviate and reduce the suffering but we can't do this alone."

"There's not only a humanitarian solution to this, there must be a political one," she said in a video message from Gaza.

The ICRC said Spoljaric's travel to the region would be in several stages with "a visit to Israel expected over the coming weeks".

Spoljaric, whose organisation has faced criticism from both sides in the bloodshed for not providing adequate help to Israeli hostages held by Hamas and to Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, insisted that "all those deprived of liberty must be treated humanely".

"The hostages must be released, and the ICRC must be allowed to safely visit them," she said.

Her visit comes after full-scale fighting resumed Friday following the collapse of a week-long truce brokered by Qatar, the United States and Egypt, during which Israel and Hamas exchanged scores of hostages and prisoners.

Israel has vowed to crush Hamas in retaliation for the Islamist militant group's Oct 7 operations.

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Israel's military said Sunday it had carried out around 10,000 air strikes since the bloodshed started.

The Hamas-run health ministry says more than 15,500 people have been killed in Gaza, about 70 per cent of them women and children -- a death toll that has sparked global alarm and mass demonstrations.

'Immense suffering'

"I'm calling on parties and everyone who has an influence to de-escalate and to find other than military solutions to what is an immense suffering of the people on both sides," she said.

"I've just visited the European Gaza hospital and the things I saw there are beyond anything that anyone should be in a position to describe," she said.

"What shocked me the most were the children with atrocious injuries and at the same time having lost their parents with no one looking after them."

She said the purpose of her visit was "to advance efforts that alleviate the desperate humanitarian situation".

"We have urgently appealed for civilian life to be protected and respected on all sides, in line with international humanitarian law, and I reiterate that appeal today," Spoljaric said, insisting that "an unimpeded and regular flow of aid must be allowed to enter Gaza".

She added that the number of ICRC and United Nations employees killed during Israel's assault was "unacceptable."

The ICRC said that during her visit to Gaza, Spoljaric would also spend time with the organisation's team on the ground and "visit the European Hospital, where ICRC medical teams have been conducting life-saving surgery alongside local healthcare workers". - AFP