Thousands rally in Jerusalem for the return of hostages

According to Israeli estimates, almost 100 of the hostages are still alive.

Thousands rally, Jerusalem, for the return of hostages

ix months after the Oct. 7 attacks, former hostages and relatives of the remaining abductees have commemorated the fate of those held hostage by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Some 50,000 people showed up for Jerusalem rally calling for the hostages to be brought home, according to the organization of family members behind the march.

A number of sisters of the women who are still being held hostage stood on stage at the beginning of the event dressed in clothes like those worn by the women on Oct. 7, when the Palestinian militant group Hamas led a surprise attack on Israel triggering the current war.

Several taped their mouths shut as a symbol of the hostages’ speechlessness and painted red paint on their clothes or arms as a sign of blood.

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“I am addressing the prime minister and the security cabinet from here: More reluctance and indecision means more hostages will return to us in coffins,” cried Lishay Lavi Miran, the wife of the abducted Omri Miran.

“I beg you: Do not return from the negotiations without a deal that includes my Omri and the other men.”

Yehuda Cohen, the father of a hostage, said: “I came here to demand that someone takes real responsibility for returning all our loved ones, someone who will save us from this hell, someone who will give us hope instead of hatred and fear, someone who will unite the people from division and fragmentation.”

“We’re here, counting the days,” said Agam Goldstein, who was abducted from her home in Kfar Aza to the Gaza Strip together with her mother and two younger brothers and released after 51 days.

“I hope you there aren’t counting. That you don’t know how long you’ve been there already.”

Goldstein, looking at the portraits of the hostages projected onto a large screen, said she wondered in what condition the hostages would return.

“The photos scattered around the country – and world – show a different person, not who they are there.

“They don’t look like that anymore, don’t smile like that anymore.”

Itay Regev, 19, who was abducted with his sister Maya at the Nova music festival on Oct. 7, described a life of fear while held hostage.

“We returned alive, but not whole,” saying he dreaded every morning because it brought another day in hell.

“The words ‘festival’ and ‘music’ have changed forever and are now the saddest words.”

Relatives of the hostages recalled the festivities of the past six months, which had to be celebrated without their loved ones.

Now they hoped to return for the Passover seder plate during one of the most important holidays in Judaism, celebrated this year from April 22 to 30.

Some 1,200 people were killed during attacks led by Hamas militants on Oct. 7 and 250 more abducted into Gaza.

Israel responded with massive airstrikes and a ground offensive, which have killed more than 33,000 people, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza, much of which has been left in ruins and on the brink of famine.

Hamas released 105 hostages during a week-long ceasefire at the end of November.

In return, Israel released 240 Palestinian prisoners.

According to Israeli estimates, almost 100 of the hostages are still alive.