Israeli protesters demand prisoner swap deal as Netanyahu-led gov't rejects offers from Hamas
On Tuesday, 14 November, dozens of Israelis began a 5-day march from Tel Aviv that will culminate in a rally outside the Israeli prime minister's office in West Jerusalem. The purpose of the march is to muster support for an immediate release of all the hostages held in Gaza by Hamas and other armed groups since October 7.
"You Must Not Halt the Deal", family members said in a press statement, specifically naming all three influential members of Israel's war cabinet: Benjamin Netanyahu, Benny Gantz and Yoav Gallant.
The Israeli government has thus far rejected offers by Hamas for a prisoner exchange deal, and its senior ministers showed no sign of heeding the call of the hostages's relatives.
Qatari mediators were on Wednesday seeking to negotiate a deal between Hamas and Israel that includes the release of around 50 civilian hostages from Gaza in exchange for a three-day ceasefire, an official briefed on the negotiations told Reuters.
The deal, under discussion, which has been coordinated with the US, would also see Israel release some Palestinian women and children from Israeli jails and increase the amount of humanitarian aid allowed into Gaza, the official said. Israel has in its prisons more than 7000 Palestinians.
Israel has said no to the deal, indicating that it is seeking the release of a higher number of hostages. According to Israel, Hamas is holding 240 Israelis and foreign nationals in Gaza. It's unclear how many are still alive.
Also on Wednesday, Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant met with Brett McGurk, the US Special Coordinator for the Middle East.
"The State of Israel will not stop its operations in Gaza until our troops fulfil their missions - destroying Hamas and returning our hostages home to their families," Galant remarked during the meeting.
Earlier, Israel's foreign minister, Eli Cohen, met with Mirjana Spoljaric, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), to discuss the war that erupted after the October 7 Hamas attacks.
"We asked for information... about the whereabouts of the hostages," Buso said.
The Red Cross has not been able to meet with the hostages in Gaza.
Qatar, the United States and Egypt have been involved in efforts to free hostages. Hamas released four women following Qatari mediation, while the Israeli army allegedly freed one captured soldier, which Hamas denied occurred.
Families of the hostages and supporters begin a 4-day march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to demand their release— Democracy Drones IL (@DemDronesIL) November 14, 2023
צעדת התמיכה במשפחות החטופים מתל אביב לבאר יעקב ועד ירושלים
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Yara Goldman, an Israeli activist from Yaffa accompanying the marchers, told The New Arab, "The atmosphere [in the march] is united, supportive... the atmosphere is tense, the atmosphere is painful".
"I want to know for a fact that the hostages are the number one concern of Netanyahu because I don't think it's his main concern", she added.
In the wake of the 7 October attacks, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's political future became even more uncertain amid speculation of ineptitude to lead Israel. Netanyahu is also amid legal battles over allegations of fraud and breach of trust.
"The right thing to do is to release all the hostages and to have us ceasefiring now and to finish this horrible situation", Goldman said.
The marchers have just passed the mixed Palestinian-Israeli city of Ramle and are set to reach West Jerusalem on Saturday.