Lawmakers call for world pressure on Hamas to release captives

Following a plea by the Red Cross, several Members of Knesset, together with the families of Israelis held captive by Hamas, appealed to the international community to work towards their release. 

The families of two IDF soldiers and two civilians currently held by Hamas joined more than a dozen Knesset members Wednesday in a plea to foreign diplomats and embassies to pressure the Islamist group to comply with international law by returning the soldiers’ bodies and providing medical care for the hostages.

Last week, the International Committee of the Red Cross also pressed the terror group for their release.

Hamas has refused to return the bodies of Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul since they were killed in the 2014 Operation Protective Edge. The group has also held Ethiopian-born Abera Mengistu and Bedouin-Israeli Hisham al-Sayed incommunicado since they mistakenly crossed from Israel into Gaza in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

Their families joined more than a dozen Knesset members Wednesday to call on foreign diplomats and embassies to pressure the Islamist group to comply with international law by returning the soldiers’ bodies and providing medical care for the hostages.

“The international community expects Israel to intervene in the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and we expect them to intervene in the return of the soldiers,”  said Shuli Mualem Rafaeli (Jewish Home) and Amir Peretz (Zionist Union), co-chairs of the Caucus for Bringing the Soldiers Back Home.

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Tzur Goldin, Hadar’s twin brother, and MK Yoav Kisch (Likud) asked members of the diplomatic corps to lobby their home governments to use political and economic influence to force Hamas to comply with international humanitarian law. Kisch said that Hamas’ cruelty adds an additional layer to Israel’s permanent dilemma vis-a-vis Gaza: On one hand, Gazans rely on Israel for  food, medication, water and electricity, but the Hamas government there routinely diverts humanitarian aid towards military projects such as rocket and missile development and digging cross-border tunnels into Israel.

“We are turning to you as representatives of foreign countries to hold leverage over Hamas where we cannot, whether in the United Nations or through other channels. You have the ability to also put pressure on countries assisting the semi-terror state such as Qatar or Turkey,” Kisch stated.

“The only way we will witness a change in Hamas is when they understand that further holding the bodies and the hostages are hurting their own interests,” he concluded.

‘Matter of Humanitarian Law, Principle and Values’

The message appeared to resonate, at least with some of the foreign representatives at the Caucus session. Swiss Ambassador to Israel, Jean-Daniel Ruch, told Tazpit Press Service (TPS) that “it is a matter of humanitarian law, principle and values that the people and bodies currently in the hands of Hamas should be returned to the families,” while Austrian ambassador to Israel Martin Weiss added “today is an important day to keep on not forgetting this crucial issue.”

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Not everyone was swayed by the ambassadors’ apparent interest in the soldiers’ and hostages’ fate. Bar-Ilan University law professor Dr. Avi Bell blasted European countries for refusing to admit the nature of Hamas terrorism.

“In some corners of the international community, there has been woeful blindness about the about the nature of Hamas, exemplified by the recent… attempts [in Europe] to reverse the group’s designation as a terror organization,” argued Bell. “It is shocking that with the hundreds of millions of euros spent on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict no country has bothered to put together sufficient legal documentation in order to block funds from going to a terrorist organization like Hamas.”

By: TPS and World Israel News Staff