Peter Maurer, the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, visited the Gaza Strip Tuesday, where he met Yehiya Sinwar, chairman of the Hamas political bureau, and, according to Palestinian media, asked him to ‘visit the missing Israeli soldiers.’
Hamas is holding the bodies of two Israeli soldiers believed to have been killed in the 2014 Gaza war, Lt. Hadar Goldin and Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul, who were killed in 2014 during Operation Protective Edge, as well as three Israeli civilians: Avera Mengistu, an Ethiopian born Israeli Jew, and Hisham al-Sayed and Jumaa Abu Ghanima, Israeli Arabs.
Mengistu, al-Sayed and Abu Ghanima are all believed to be alive; all three reportedly crossed into Gaza of their own volition and Mengistu and al-Sayed are believed to be suffering from mental illness.
No confirmation was available from the Red Cross, however according to a media advisory put out prior to Maurer’s visit, the organization planned to discuss “various topics of concern to the ICRC” during the visit.
In a statement put out in June regarding the fate of the Israeli captives and fallen soldiers in Gaza, the ICRC said: “Missing persons, regardless of their status – soldiers fallen or captured during the fighting, or civilians taken captive by an adverse party – are protected by humanitarian law. They and their families must be shown due regard under the law.
“Persons captured alive must be accounted for and treated humanely. Human remains, too, must be handled with dignity, identified and returned to the families concerned. These are among the most widely accepted rules of warfare.”
Sinwar planned the the abduction and murder of two Israeli soldiers and spent 22 years in Israeli jails before being released in the 2011 prisoner exchange deal for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. In September 2015, he was added to the US terrorism blacklist.
Following his trip to Gaza, Maurer will also meet with Israeli officials in Jerusalem and with Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah.