Red Cross Urges Hamas: Let Us Visit Gilad Shalit

Appeal comes as Shalit family give former U.S. president Carter a letter for abducted soldier.

The International Red Cross has urged Hamas to allow it to visit abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, the humanitarian organization said Thursday.

The Red Cross has also asked the Islamist militant group to permit the exchange of messages between Shalit and his family.

The organization noted in a press release that it has repeatedly petitioned Hamas to allow the contact between Shalit and his family, with recent requests made at the "highest level," to no avail.

In the statement, the Red Cross' head of operations for the Mideast and North Africa, Beatrice Megevand-Roggo, praised former U.S. president Jimmy Carter for handing over to Hamas a letter for Shalit from his family.

"However, this cannot replace the regular and unconditional contacts with his family that Gilad Shalit is entitled to under international humanitarian law," Megevand-Roggo said.

Shalit was kidnapped in a 2006 cross-border raid by Gaza militants; he is widely believed to be held in the Hamas-ruled coastal strip. Egyptian-brokered negotiations to secure his release have so far been unsuccessful.

In the press release, Megevand-Roggo added: "The ICRC regrets that in his case political considerations are judged more important than the simple humanitarian gesture of allowing a captive to be in touch with his family after three years of separation."

The Red Cross said it has been unable, despite repeated attempts, to ascertain Shalit's conditions.

Megevand-Roggo said that the people holding Gilad Shalit were entirely responsible for ensuring his treatment and living conditions are humane and dignified.

The Red Cross said it has held several meetings with Noam and Aviva, Gilad Shalit's parents, to brief them on its efforts regarding their son.

"We share their concerns. Despite the lack of progress so far we will continue to press for family contacts for Mr Shalit and for ICRC access to him," Megevand-Roggo added.