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‘We already lost – we have 240 people in Gaza’: Families of Israeli hostages plead for help from Netanyahu

Israel’s beleaguered prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has bowed to pressure after a five-day march by families of hostages taken by Hamas and thousands of supporters.

He has finally agreed to meet the families along with his war cabinet on Monday.

A huge march set off from Tel Aviv on Tuesday, arriving in Jerusalem on Saturday, with thousands joining them on the way.

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Among them was Dr Guy Halfteck, who told Sky News it should never have been needed.

“It should not have required a march of 80km (50 miles) with people suffering and families suffering only to get a meeting with the prime minister,” he said.

Shelley Shemtov’s 21-year-old son Omer was taken by Hamas at the music festival near Gaza on 7 October. The last month and a half has been unbearable, she said.

“It’s 43 days of nightmare. We don’t sleep, we don’t eat. I don’t know (if) my son (is) eating, if they are giving him food or if they are beating him. I know nothing. It’s a nightmare.”

Asked if marching with thousands of others soothed her pain, she said: “Very much. It’s a power. They are giving us power.”

Marchers making their way through Jerusalem
Image:
Marchers making their way through Jerusalem

They were here with a message for the Israeli government. Moran Mina, whose grandmother is being held, said there should be only one Israeli mission in Gaza.

“The message is that there will be victory,” she said. “We already lost. We have 240 people in Gaza. We need to bring them all back and this is our victory.”

In a moment of haunting poignancy they released balloons, one for every hostage still missing. The mood was sombre, with a sense of deep sadness and pain. But also of determination that their voices are heard and their loved ones are not forgotten.

Read more:
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Marchers hugging in Jerusalem

The march, which ended outside Mr Netanyahu’s office, adds to the pressure on Israel’s beleaguered leader.

Ariel Tishbi told Sky News the prime minister should take the hint and stand down: “Our prime minister doesn’t belong here. He lost his credit long ago and what happened in the last year is horrible and led to these events. No, I’m sorry, Mr Netanyahu should go home.”

By the end of the day, there was another huge rally in Tel Aviv, keeping up the pressure on the prime minister – pressure he seems to be bowing to, agreeing to the meeting with the families who will use it to press their case.

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