New appeal as Israeli hostages are held for 100 days

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The families of hostages held in the Gaza Strip have begun a 24-hour rally calling on the Israeli government to bring their loved ones home after 100 days in Hamas captivity.

Thousands of people flocked to Tel Aviv’s “Hostage Square” – a central square opposite Israel’s Ministry of Defense that has served as a rallying point for campaigners.

Hamas and other Gaza militants captured some 250 people in the Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, while killing some 1,200 other people, most of whom were civilians.

Israel’s military operation in response has led to the deaths of 23,843 people in the Hamas-held area, according to health officials.

More than 100 hostages were released during a temporary ceasefire in November, but 132 remain in Gaza, including the remains of about two dozen who were killed or killed.

“We were here on day 50 and spoke on this stage. We’re not going to speak for 50 days. It’s time to bring them back. Now! Bring them back!” said Ronen Neutra, father of Omer Neutra, a Israeli soldier who was taken away. “They are being held in terrible conditions. They are starving. They are dying.”

Little visible progress has been made toward a new deal to release hostages. Their families are using the 100-day limit to make a new call for the government to prioritize bringing the abductees home. Some believe the government has not done enough.

Israel said on Saturday it had struck a deal with mediator Qatar to deliver desperately needed medicine to the hostages with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross. There was no immediate sign that the deal was being executed.

Osama Hamdan, an exiled Hamas leader, said in Beirut on Saturday that the group was giving some of the medicine available in Gaza to hostages.

Near the rally in support of the hostages, anti-government protesters calling for new elections blocked a major highway in Tel Aviv, clashing with police who made arrests and tried to push back the crowds. Other protesters marched on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s private home in the coastal town of Caesarea and called for his resignation.

In Tel Aviv, many protesters planned to stay out all night. The crowd listened to a recorded message from French President Emmanuel Macron and heard from U.S. Ambassador to Israel Jacob Lew. Lew and Macron vowed to do everything in their power to bring the remaining hostages home.

“Today, as we mark 100 days since hundreds of innocent men, women and children were violently taken from Israel, we unite in demanding their release,” Lew said.

In previous hostage exchanges for Palestinian prisoners, virtually all those released on both sides were women and minors. Now there are 111 men, 19 women and two children left in Gaza.

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