The Red Cross announced late Monday that its president had traveled from Qatar to meet with Palestinian Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to "make progress on humanitarian issues related to the armed conflict in Israel and Gaza," the Palestinian territory governed by the movement.
"President Mirjana Spoljaric met with Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas' political bureau, and separately with the Qatari authorities," the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement. Ismail Haniyeh is the head of Hamas' political bureau. The 61-year-old was notably the architect of Hamas' electoral victory in the Gaza Strip in 2006. He was also Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority.
The visit comes as Qatar, which is mediating to try to secure the release of Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip, said on Sunday that only "very minor" obstacles to a deal remained.
According to the ICRC, Mirjana Spoljaric's visit is part of efforts to hold "direct discussions with all parties to improve respect for international humanitarian law". He said its president had also met "on multiple occasions in recent weeks with families of hostages held in Gaza, as well as senior Israeli and Palestinian officials."
13,300 dead in Gaza, says Hamas
In this regard, the ICRC "insists that (its) teams be allowed to visit the hostages in order to ensure their well-being and to administer medicines, and so that the hostages are able to communicate with their families." "Agreements must be reached to allow the ICRC to carry out its work safely. The ICRC cannot forcibly enter the places where the hostages are being held, nor do we know their whereabouts," the statement continued.
The Israeli military estimates that some 240 people were taken hostage in the Gaza Strip during Hamas' unprecedented attack on Israeli territory on October 7. It killed about 1,200 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an Israeli tally.
In retaliation, Israel has been relentlessly bombing the Gaza Strip and has been conducting a ground operation since October 27 with the aim of "annihilating" the Islamist movement, which is in power in the besieged Palestinian territory. The Israeli strikes on Gaza have killed more than 13,300 people, including more than 5,600 children, according to the Hamas government.