Israeli Hostage Families Near Jerusalem in March of Solidarity and Protest

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The families of Israeli hostages and thousands of supporters marched towards Jerusalem on Friday, ramping up pressure on the government to secure their release nearly six weeks after Hamas militants abducted them and took them into Gaza.

The procession left Tel Aviv three days ago and at this point stretched a few kilometres. Police blocked off parts of the main highway as the marchers began to ascend the foothills leading to Jerusalem.

They held up pictures of their loved ones, waved Israeli flags, and chanted “We won’t give up, we demand the hostages’ release!”

Hamas fighters took around 240 people hostage during their Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel. The captives – ranging from babies to grandparents – are believed to be held in tunnels deep under the Gaza Strip.

Israeli and Arabic media have reported on negotiations to secure the release of at least some of the hostages, but there has been no confirmation from any side of an imminent deal.

“Hear our shout. Bring them back home now,” said Yuval Haran, who walked with a placard showing seven members of his family who were taken hostage, including his three-year-old niece.

“How can you put a price on a three-year old girl? We need them back now, at any price.”

The German ambassador to Israel, Steffen Seibert, met up with the marchers and called for the unconditional release of the hostages.

“We work for this on all political and diplomatic levels and we just ask you to keep the hope alive,” he said, speaking through a megaphone. “In our hearts and our minds we are with you.”

The families and their supporters say they will end the march of about 60 km (37 miles) on Saturday in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem.

(Reporting by Ilan Rosenberg; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

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