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The International Committee of the Red Cross said it has approached Hamas a number of times to allow its representatives to visit kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit in Gaza, but were not given access. "The result in unsatisfactory, we recognize this," the deputy head of the organization's mission in Israel and the territories, Pierre Dorbes, said Thursday.

However, Dorbes' statement that the organization has spared no effort in trying to assist Shalit is rejected by sources close to the family and activists for Shalit's release, who say the Red Cross could have done much more.

"It is a pale and feeble organization, Brig. Gen. (res.) Hezi Meshita, head of the group working for Shalit's release, said.

According to Meshita, the Red Cross acts mainly "to meet the needs of the other side."

"They visit the Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, transfer merchandise to Gaza, but they don't try to bring any pressure to bear on Hamas to allow them to visit or bring a sign of life from Gilad," Meshita said. He said he expects the Red Cross to at least threaten to halt its activities on behalf of Hamas prisoners if the organization does not allow them to visit Shalit.

In a response Dorbes said: "We are not political. Our job is to see to it that detainees receive humane treatment. We can only regret it when one side does not allow us access." Dorbes said the Red Cross has been conducting "quiet and secret talks" in Gaza and Damascus. As a humanitarian organization Dorbes added the Red Cross cannot punish or pressure either side.

In the case of the abduction of the bodies of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser to Lebanon by Hezbollah, Meshita said the Red Cross was also "feeble," adding, "The Red Cross remembered to get involved only after the deals were done." Dorbes declined to commment on the latter allegation except to say that there is no comparison between the cases.