Families of Hostages Are 'Escalating Their Campaign'

Relatives of those taken by Hamas on Oct. 7 protest outside Netanyahu's home in Israel
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 20, 2024 6:30 AM CST
Frustrated Families of Hostages Protest at Bibi's Home
A Palestinian sits among destruction from the Israeli bombardment in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on Friday.   (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Relatives of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza protested Saturday outside the home of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, expressing frustration over his government's seeming lack of progress in getting the more than 100 captives released as the war in Gaza drags on. A group representing families of the hostages said they'd "begged for 105 days" and now demanded that the government show leadership and take bold steps to free the hostages. A member of Israel's war cabinet has called a ceasefire the only way to secure their release, a comment that implied criticism of Israel's current strategy. The protest outside the prime minister's home and the remark by former Israeli army chief Gadi Eisenkot were among the signs of growing strife in Israel over the direction of the war in its fourth month, per the AP.

Netanyahu has said he'll push for "complete victory" against Hamas, but he hasn't outlined how he would achieve that. Critics have accused him of preventing a Cabinet-level debate about a post-war scenario for Gaza, alleging Netanyahu is stalling in hopes of avoiding conflict that could potentially break up his right-wing ruling coalition. Israel launched its war against Hamas following the militant group's unprecedented Oct. 7 attack that killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, in Israel and saw about 250 others taken hostage from the country's south. Health authorities in Hamas-ruled Gaza say Israel's offensive has killed nearly 25,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children. The offensive, one of the most destructive military campaigns in recent history, has pulverized much of the territory and displaced more than 80% of its population of 2.3 million people.

An Israeli blockade that allows only a trickle of aid into Gaza has led to widespread hunger and outbreaks of disease, United Nations officials have said. Netanyahu has insisted that the only way to secure the hostages' return is by crushing Hamas through military means. But relatives of the remaining captives have been escalating their campaign seeking a deal for the release of their loved ones. More than 100 hostages, mostly women and children, were released during a brief November ceasefire in exchange for the release of Palestinian women and minors imprisoned by Israel. Israel has said that more than 130 hostages remain in Gaza, but only about 100 are believed to be alive. On Friday, the father of a 28-year-old man who has been held by Hamas since Oct. 7 began what he called a hunger strike outside Netanyahu's home in the coastal town of Caesarea.

story continues below

Eli Shtivi, who son Idan was among those kidnapped from a music fest in southern Israel, pledged to eat only a quarter of a pita a day, to show how little food some hostages were reportedly given on some days, until Netanyahu agreed to meet with him. Dozens joined Shtivi late Friday and were still there Saturday morning. Eisenkot, whose son was killed in December while fighting in Gaza, has called into question Netanyahu's insistence that only Israel's blistering air and ground offensive would bring the hostages home. Eisenkot said during a Thursday TV interview that claiming the captives could be freed without a deal and a ceasefire "is to spread illusions." The hostages "will only return alive if there is a deal, linked to a significant pause in fighting," he said. Dramatic rescue operations are unlikely, as the hostages are apparently spread out, many of them in underground tunnels, he said. More here.

(More Israel-Hamas war stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.