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“Bring them home now”: a march demanding the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip has arrived in Jerusalem

Thousands of demonstrators arrived in Jerusalem on Saturday evening after a four-day march aimed at pressuring the Israeli government to reach an agreement with Hamas to release hostages held in the Gaza Strip. The march began near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip. According to Israeli media, approximately 15,000 people took part upon arrival in Jerusalem, with organizers citing 20,000 participants.

“Together we will bring (…) the kidnapped people home,” said Gabriela Leimberg, a freed former Hamas hostage, with her daughter Mia during a truce between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement in November.

Hostages “are priority number one,” Nadav Rudayev, the son of Lior Rudayev, a 61-year-old hostage, told demonstrators, according to a video released by organizers.

“Hostages and families of hostages are not enemies. The enemy is Hamas,” he added, calling on the population to “shout with us as loud as possible.” Take them home now “, the slogan of the families of the hostages.

“Another meeting”

“I was afraid because I thought people were starting to forget (the hostages) or be indifferent (…), but this meeting is different. This is more important” than many others carried out in recent months, said 50-year-old Daphne Keidar.

About 250 people were kidnapped and taken to the Gaza Strip during the unprecedented Oct. 7 Hamas attack in Israel that killed 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to AFP, based on official data. In response, Israel vowed to “destroy” Hamas and launched a large-scale ground and air offensive that has killed more than 30,300 people in Gaza, the vast majority of them civilians, according to the Hamas Health Ministry.

“Make a deal, no matter what it takes”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing intense public pressure to return hostages still held in the Gaza Strip back to Israel. According to Israeli authorities, there are still 130 of them, of whom 31 are believed to have died, after the release of more than a hundred hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners during the November truce.

Qatar, the US and Egypt are trying to negotiate an agreement between Hamas and Israel that would include a six-week truce coupled with the release of hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. According to Eyal Kalteront, cousin of hostage Oter Kalteront, “we must reach an agreement at any cost (…) I don’t know if there will be another chance to reach an agreement. So it’s now or maybe never.”

Source: Le Parisien

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