ICRC chief meets Hamas leader in Gaza

Gaza City (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) –


The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross met with Hamas's hardline Gaza Strip chief Tuesday as he began a three-day trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Peter Maurer met with Yahya Sinwar, whose Islamist movement runs the strip, as well as civil society groups in the Palestinian enclave.

Maurer told journalists afterwards that he and Sinwar had a "good conversation" about a range of issues including the humanitarian situation in Gaza and international humanitarian law.

Gazans are suffering through severe electricity shortages and a lack of clean water, among other humanitarian concerns.

"I want to assure the Gazan population and authorities here the ICRC will continue to do its best to support those who are suffering most from the situation," Maurer said.

He will also meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the visit.

Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2008, and the Jewish state maintains a crippling blockade on the enclave.

Gaza's border with Egypt has also been largely closed in recent years.

Visiting UN chief Antonio Guterres last week called for the blockade of Gaza to be lifted, saying the enclave was enduring "one of the most dramatic humanitarian crises" he had seen.

Much of the international community considers Hamas a terrorist organisation and will not meet with it, but the ICRC meets with all parties in conflicts as part of its mandate.