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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Josh Salisbury

Israeli hostages’ families march from Tel Aviv to Benjamin Netanyahu’s Jerusalem office in demonstration

Thousands of relatives and supporters of the 240 hostages held in Gaza marched through Jerusalem on Saturday as they called for the return of their loved ones.

The marchers demonstrated outside Benjamin Netanyahu’s office at the end of a five-day, 40-mile march from Tel Aviv

It is the largest protest on behalf of the hostages since they were taken by Hamas on October 7.

Demonstrators criticised prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's handling of the hostage crisis and pleaded with the government to do more to bring their loved ones home.

They carried Israeli flags and photos of the hostages, and carried yellow balloons printed with the words "Bring them home."

“I want you to look in my eyes and try to understand just a bit of the trauma I'm feeling," Daria Gonen, referring to Israeli leaders, said at the rally. 

Her 23-year-old sister, Romi Gonen, was kidnapped by Hamas from a music festival-turned-massacre near Gaza.

Ruby Chen, another protester, said that the families want to “keep the awareness of the hostage issue as a top priority for the government of Israel." Ms Chen's 19-year old son is also a hostage.

Some of the hostage families have said they fear that Israel’s military offensive against Hamas could endanger their loved ones.

However, Israeli leaders have argued that only military pressure on Hamas will lead to some hostage releases in a possible deal involving a temporary cease-fire.

The march came amid widespread Israeli media speculation that the government is considering a Qatari-brokered deal to win the release of the women and children among the hostages. 

In exchange, Israel would agree to a cease-fire of several days and release several dozen of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners it is holding.

Of the more than 240 hostages kidnapped by Hamas to Gaza, five have been released — four of them through international diplomacy involving Qatar, and one who was rescued by Israeli troops.

However, Israel this week confirmed the deaths of two hostages, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad have published several videos of hostages who looked unwell, provoking concern for their wellbeing.

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