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Gaza hostage inaction criticised

"How can it be that organisations and advocates call for a ceasefire without demanding the release of the hostages?" says Co-organisers Tamar Paluch and Simonne Whine.

Protesters outside the offices of the Australian Red Cross in Melbourne last Thursday.
Protesters outside the offices of the Australian Red Cross in Melbourne last Thursday.

Pressure from the Jewish community, doctors and political leaders has led to the Red Cross offering to meet with Jewish representatives.

It follows a demonstration outside the organisation’s office last Thursday by an ad hoc group of around 50 Jews calling on the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to help the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.

Co-organisers Tamar Paluch and Simonne Whine told the crowd that global Jewish communities have been betrayed.

“How can it be that organisations and advocates call for a ceasefire without demanding the release of the hostages? It is simply outrageous – our anger runs deep, and this is why we are here,” they said in a statement.

“Today we exhort the Australian Red Cross, an organisation supported by the Australian government and the generosity of well-intended Australians, to deliver a message to their roof body, the ICRC – DO YOUR JOB!”

After the demonstration finished, organisers received an invitation to share their concerns.

A Red Cross spokesperson said in a statement they are extremely concerned by the growing humanitarian impacts of the conflict in Israel and Gaza.

The statement said they have been supporting calls for the release of the hostages and advocating for their welfare here in Australia.

The Australian Red Cross, together with the ICRC Australian Mission have agreed to meet Jewish community leaders to address the issue of getting access to the hostages.

Two doctors behind a recent petition signed by more than a thousand Australian physicians asking the Red Cross to get access to the Gaza hostages will also be invited.

Paluch said, “As community organisers our role was to create a space for people to channel their anger and grief into constructive action. We will not be steering the next steps, rather handing reins to people who are equipped to address this at high level.”

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein said, “The International Committee of the Red Cross has an obligation to demand access. The excuses of the ICRC ring hollow.”

The Victorian Parliamentary Friends of Israel earlier wrote to the ICRC Australian Mission urging them to get further international support to broker immediate and unfettered access to the hostages.

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