Tens of thousands rally in Tel Aviv amid delay in release of captives

Demonstration at what has become known as ‘Hostages Square’ marked 50 days since Hamas attack on Israel.

Israelis take part in a protest in Tel Aviv asking for the release of all captives held by Hamas, November 25, 2023 [Gil Cohen-Magen/ AFP]Published On 25 Nov 202325 Nov 2023

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Tel Aviv to call for the release of all captives held by Hamas, on the second day of a truce between the Palestinian group and Israel.

On Saturday, friends and family of the captives and many supporters came together in trepidation in what has become known to Israelis as “Hostages Square”, near the Ministry of Defence, amid a delay in the release of the second group of hostages and Palestinian prisoners.

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Hamas delayed the release of the second group of captives, accusing Israel of violating the truce, which started on Friday and is expected to last for four days.

A spokesperson for Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs subsequently announced that “the obstacles were overcome through Qatari-Egyptian” mediation and the exchange was likely to go ahead on Saturday night, when 39 Palestinians and 13 Israeli captives would be released, in addition to seven foreigners.

The event in Tel Aviv also marked 50 days since the October 7 attack by Hamas on southern Israel, in which about 1,200 people died, according to Israeli officials.

The Israeli aerial and ground assault on Gaza has since killed more than 15,000 Palestinians, including more than 6,000 children.

On Friday, Hamas released 24 captives and Israel freed 39 Palestinian women and children held in its jails.

“Returning hostages is the biggest mitzvah there is,” singer Ehud Banai told the crowd from the stage, The Times of Israel newspaper reported.

“With Hanukkah coming, we’ll light many candles during this dark time. Our hearts are broken until we see all of them home.”

Many people were wearing “Bring Them Home” campaign T-shirts, and holding placards with the names and pictures of the captives.

Israelis have taken to the streets every weekend in their thousands in the last few weeks to put pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying the government was ignoring their pleas to prioritise bringing their loved ones home.

Druze community leaders attending the rally on Saturday were warmly welcomed with enthusiastic applause from the crowd.

Demonstrators also gathered in front of one of Netanyahu’s private residences in Jerusalem, calling for his immediate removal from office.

Source: Al Jazeera