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Israelis marching for hostage release reach Jerusalem

On Saturday, a large number of Israeli protesters made their way to Jerusalem after a four-day march from the Gaza border. The purpose of this march was to urge the government to take action and secure the release of a hostage.

Published March 02,2024

Thousands of Israeli demonstrators arrived Saturday in Jerusalem, concluding a four-day march from the Gaza border in a bid to pressure the government to secure the hostage release.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government has come under increasing domestic pressure to bring home the 130 captives Israel says remain in the Gaza Strip -- including 31 who are presumed dead -- since Hamas's October 7 attack that triggered a nearly five-month war.

Hamas fighters abducted around 250 Israelis and foreigners during the unprecedented attack on southern Israel that also resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures.

Israel's retaliatory military campaign to eliminate Hamas has killed 30,320 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry.

Israeli media estimated the crowd that arrived in Jerusalem at about 15,000 people.

"Together we will bring the... kidnapped people back home," Gabriela Leimberg, a former hostage who was released during a one-week truce in November, told AFP.

The hostages "are the top priority that needs to be resolved," Nadav Rudaeff, son of 61-year-old Lior Rudaeff who is held captive, told the marchers as they made their way to Jerusalem, according to a video distributed by the organisers.

"Come this evening to Jerusalem," the seat of the Israeli government, he added, asking supporters to "be with us and to yell as loud as we can, 'Bring them home now!'"

International mediators have been scrambling to lock in a new truce deal that may include hostage release before the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which begins on March 10 or 11, depending on the lunar calendar.