The following is a transcript of an interview with Robert Mardini, director-general of the International Committee of Red Cross, that aired on Oct. 29, 2023.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to Robert Mardini, who is the Director General of the International Committee of the Red Cross and he joins us from Geneva. Good morning to you, sir. How much aid have you been able to get into Gaza today?
DIRECTOR GENERAL OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS ROBERT MARDINI: Good morning, Margaret. So, today we were able to get the three additional trucks in, of medicines, war wounded kits, surgical equipment for hospital, they are badly needed, as well as some water and sanitation equipment. They come on top of six trucks that passed on Friday. This is good, this is positive, but this is a drop in an ocean of need. And of course, it’s only a small fraction of what the Gaza Strip and Gazans need today.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We just heard on our program from a Republican senator who said that he does not trust that US aid that is provided to international organizations like yours can actually make it to the people of Gaza and not end up in the hands of terrorists. How do you account for that?
DIRECTOR MARDINI: Well as a- as a neutral, impartial humanitarian organization that has been present in the Gaza Strip for- for decades now. We work in a direct implementation mode, we have our own staff delivering aid and services to- to individuals that are carefully vetted, to- to institutions such as hospitals, such as al Shifa Hospital, where our surgeon very often operate hand in hand with Palestinian surgeons and our partners from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society. So we have very robust and rigorous checks in place to prevent and to ensure, rather, that the aid goes to the right persons who- those who need it the most.
MARGARET BRENNAN: This morning, the Palestinian Red Crescent, that you just mentioned, said they received threats and needed to evacuate the hospital they were told because it was going to be bombarded. Did Israel inform your partners of this? What is happening?
DIRECTOR MARDINI: Well, these orders of evacuation happening in the Gaza Strip are of course problematic for us. This hospital, al-Quds, has close to 400 patients, most of them severely injured. There are thousands of civilians taking shelter in hospitals, hospitals are protected by the laws of war by international humanitarian law. Under no circumstances, hospitals should be bombed, under no circumstance, a patient should die in a hospital bed. And it is very difficult to evacuate hospitals. Imagine babies and incubators, you cannot unplug this. Imagine people getting oxygen, you cannot just evacuate this unless there is a feasible and viable alternative to this. And today, this alternative simply does not exist in the Gaza Strip. And let’s remind that it is the obligation of parties to the conflict to ensure that basic services for the civilian population are covered at all times. And the burden should not go to organizations such as us or the Palestine Red Crescent Society.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You are neutral. You are in contact with Hamas, on Friday there had been high hopes for a humanitarian hostage release. There wasn’t one. Do you still believe that one is possible?
DIRECTOR MARDINI: Let me just start by saying that to the- to the families of hostages, that the plight of their loved ones is one of our top priorities, that we are in conversation with Hamas, with Israeli officials and with other- others to ensure their safe release. We have been also proposing to visit hostages in order to ensure that they get personal medicines, or simply that they can exchange messages with their loved ones. And of course, we stand ready to facilitate any release hoping that this will happen. So far, we were able to facilitate the release of four hostages, and we stand ready to do more as- as soon as parties negotiate an agreement.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we hope for all of those hostage families that there is one. Thank you very much for your time today. We’ll be right back.