JERUSALEM (AP) — Thousands of Israelis, including relatives of about 240 hostages held by Hamas, marched in Jerusalem on Saturday, criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his handling of the war and demanding that the government do more to free those held hostage. .
The march capped a five-day demonstration from Tel Aviv and represented the largest demonstration for the hostages since they were taken to Gaza by Hamas on October 7, when the Palestinian group committed its massacre in Israel. Some 1,200 people died in the attack, the vast majority civilians.
Israel responded by declaring war and more than 11,500 Palestinians have been killed in the six weeks since in an intense Israeli offensive.
Israel has set two objectives in its offensive: to crush Hamas militarily and to free the hostages.
Some relatives of hostages say they fear the military offensive puts their loved ones in danger. The Israeli government responds that only military pressure will make the Palestinian group release hostages, as part of an agreement that could involve a temporary truce.
The protesters carried Israeli flags and portraits of the hostages, as they completed the 70 kilometers to Jerusalem and gathered in front of Netanyahu’s office.
Netanyahu has so far not agreed to meet with them, causing anger among the families. Other members of the war cabinet — including former opposition leader Benny Gantz and army chief Gadi Eisenkot — were scheduled to meet with representatives of the families on Saturday night.
“We are here today, with many families, marching towards Jerusalem, to keep the hostage issue a number one priority for the government of Israel,” said Ruby Chen, whose 19-year-old son is one of the hostages.