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WHO urges Hamas to release all hostages on 'health grounds'

GENEVA: The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday (Oct 25) called for Hamas to provide proof of life of the hostages it is holding and release them all on health grounds.

The WHO said the International Committee of the Red Cross should be allowed immediate medical access to ascertain their health status, while it stands ready to provide the ICRC with any health support required for the hostages.

Israel has been bombarding since Oct 7 when Hamas gunmen poured across the border killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping 222 others, officials say, in the worst attack in Israel’s history.

So far, more than 6,500 Palestinians have been killed, mostly civilians, and there are fears the toll could further soar if Israel pushes ahead with a widely expected ground invasion in a bid to destroy Hamas and rescue the hostages.

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The WHO said it was “gravely concerned” for the health of the hostages, which, it said, include health workers and up to 30 children.

“There is an urgent need for the captors of the hostages to provide signs of life, proof of provision of health care and the immediate release, on humanitarian and health grounds, of all those abducted,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

He held talks on Wednesday with the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, an Israeli non-governmental organisation which represents families of those abducted.

Tedros said he “heard first-hand the tragedy, trauma and suffering they are facing”.

“Many of the hostages, including children, women and the elderly, have pre-existing health conditions requiring urgent and sustained care and treatment. The mental health trauma that the abducted, and the families, are facing is acute and psychosocial support is of great importance,” he said.

Tedros said the United Nations health agency would do “all we can to support the health and humanitarian needs of those being held captive”.

“All civilians who are suffering in this conflict must be protected,” he added.

He called on all 194 WHO member states to put people’s health first and “take immediate action to end the ongoing suffering”.

The UN health agency has called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire for the safe delivery of health supplies and fuel throughout the Gaza Strip.

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