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Thousands rally for Gaza hostages in Jerusalem

Army says 129 of 250 Israelis and foreigners taken hostage on Oct. 7 are still being held in Gaza, including 34 presumed dead
Relatives and supporters of Israeli hostages held in Gaza since the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas militants hold placards during a demonstration in front of the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on April 7 amid the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israel and the Palestinian militant Hamas movement.

Relatives and supporters of Israeli hostages held in Gaza since the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas militants hold placards during a demonstration in front of the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on April 7 amid the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israel and the Palestinian militant Hamas movement. (Photo: AFP)

Published: April 08, 2024 04:16 AM GMT
Updated: April 08, 2024 04:24 AM GMT

Thousands gathered on April 7 in front of Israel's parliament to demand the return of the hostages abducted by Hamas militants in Gaza exactly six months ago.

"Stay strong you who are still there," cried 17-year-old former hostage Agam Goldstein with tears in her eyes.

The teenager was freed in a deal with Hamas at the end of November.

About 250 Israelis and foreigners were taken hostage by militants on Oct. 7.

The army says 129 are still being held in Gaza, including 34 who are presumed dead.

In another moment of high emotion at the rally, Ofri Bibas appealed for the lives of her brother Yarden, his wife Shiri, and their sons, Ariel, 4, and one-year-old Kfir -- the youngest of the hostages.

After a massive anti-government demonstration in Tel Aviv on April 6, which also heard emotional calls to free the hostages, organizers of the Jerusalem rally attempted to be apolitical.

But Lishay Meran, whose husband Omri is among those held captive in Gaza, took aim at the country's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is frequently accused of not doing enough to free them.

"We were abandoned on October 7, and we have been abandoned since," said the mother of two as protesters carried banners reading "Free them now!" and "Bring them home."

Other hostage families have accused Netanyahu of trying to blacken their reputations and accusing them of being "traitors" for protesting in wartime.

But Netanyahu vowed on April 7 that the war would not end until all the hostages were released.

The Gaza war broke out on Oct. 7 with an attack by Hamas militants that resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, Israeli figures show.

Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed at least 33,175 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

The latest round of indirect talks between Israel and Hamas was set to resume in Cairo on April 7, with the United States, Egypt and Qatar as mediators.

Israel and Hamas have accused each other of dragging out the negotiations.

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