newsIsrael at War

Thousands expected at Jerusalem rally marking six months since Oct. 7

Dozens of rallies will also be taking place in major cities across the globe, including New York, Washington, Berlin, Amsterdam and Paris. 

Israelis attend a rally calling for the release of Israelis held kidnapped by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, at "Hostage Square" in Tel Aviv, Feb. 24, 2024. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
Israelis attend a rally calling for the release of Israelis held kidnapped by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, at "Hostage Square" in Tel Aviv, Feb. 24, 2024. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.

Thousands of Israelis are expected to converge on Jerusalem’s Yaka Square on Sunday evening for a rally to mark six months since Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre and demand the release of 133 remaining hostages being held in Gaza.

According to the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, which is organizing the rally, speakers may include siblings Itay and Maya Regev, who were released in late November after spending over 50 days in Hamas captivity, and Ofri Bibas, whose brother Yarden, sister-in-law Shiri and nephews Ariel, 4, and Kfir, who was nine months old at the time of his abduction, remain in Gaza. 

In a show of solidarity, dozens of rallies will also be taking place in major cities across the globe, including New York, Washington, Berlin, Amsterdam and Paris. 

“Enough is enough. The world has to understand that we cannot legitimize terror,” Efrat Machikawa told JNS. Her aunt Margalit Moses, 78, was freed in November while her uncle Gadi Moses, 80, remains in captivity.

“There are 133 worlds behind the names and numbers, innocent people taken away from their beds. This wound won’t heal unless they are all returned home where they belong,” Machikawa added. 

Machikawa contributed to a music video released on Sunday in support of the hostages that compiles footage of the remaining captives. She will make her way to Jerusalem after attending the funeral of Elad Katzir.

Katzir was kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Oz by Palestinian Islamic Jihad on Oct. 7, together with his mother, Hanna, who was released on Nov. 24 as part of a hostage deal. 

Katzir’s body was retrieved from Khan Yunis on Saturday as part of a complex special forces operation. 

Aviram Meir, the uncle of 21-year-old captive Almog Jan, told JNS, “I am confused, I am disappointed.” 

Though noting that 110 hostages have already been freed, six months into the war “more than 133 captives are rotting in Hamas’s tunnels in Gaza. They don’t see the light and I don’t either,” he said.

Meir will also be attending Katzir’s funeral in southern Israel before heading to the capital for the rally. 

“I want my prime minister to be a leader, to make decisions and do something that will bring them back. If he believes that advancing further into Gaza is the right course of action, then he must do it, and if he thinks a soft agreement through negotiations is the way to go, he should do it. But he must do something,” Meir added. 

Almog Jan was one of 40 people kidnapped from the Supernova festival near Kibbutz Re’im on Oct. 7. At 7:45 a.m., Almog called his mother, Orit, to tell her that terrorists were shooting at people. He promised to update her every half hour and told her he loved her. It was the last time they spoke. 

Orit later identified her son in a propaganda video featuring five tied-up youngsters, some of whom had been beaten and all of whom were terrified. The clip was the last proof of life that the family received. 

“For six months, we don’t know where he is, what’s happening to him, if he is eating, sleeping, brushing his teeth and what his medical condition is. We have no idea. We hope and believe that he is alive and this is the motivation that keeps us moving,” said Meir. 

On Sunday, Israeli President Herzog marked a half year since Hamas’s Oct. 7 invasion of the Jewish state:

“[Today,] we mark six months since the cruel terror attack and the horrific massacre. Half a year since this crime against our sisters and brothers, against our state, this crime against humanity. Six months of a bloody and difficult war,” said Herzog.

“Half a year has passed, and it is difficult to know what challenges still lie ahead of us. But despite the long and difficult journey, I look at you, citizens of Israel, and I know—we will rise again, we will heal and build, we will plant, we will reap with joy what we sowed in tears, and we will prove to the whole world: Am Yisrael Chai!” he added. 

Mossad chief David Barnea was expected to depart for a new round of talks in Cairo over the weekend, in which Hamas has reportedly agreed to participate. 

However, Ismail Haniyeh, who is based in Doha under the protection of the Qatari government, commented in a televised speech ahead of “Quds Day” on Friday that Hamas would not change its conditions for a hostage deal, which Jerusalem has described as “delusional” and a non-starter.

“We are committed to our demands: the permanent ceasefire, comprehensive and complete withdrawal of the enemy out of the Gaza Strip, the return of all displaced people to their homes, allowing all aid needed for our people in Gaza, rebuilding the Strip, lifting the blockade and achieving an honorable prisoner exchange deal,” said Haniyeh.

Sunday’s protest comes a week after the controversial decision by some hostages’ families to join forces with anti-government protesters in a bid to oust Netanyahu. During demonstrations in Jerusalem on Tuesday, protesters called to “burn down the country” and attempted to storm Netanyahu’s official residence.

Shlomi Berger, whose daughter Agam, 19, was kidnapped by Hamas from Nahal Oz on Oct. 7 and is one of 19 women still being held by the terrorist organization, will also be attending the rally at the square located between the Israeli Finance Ministry and the Knesset. 

“Today we mark six months and it’s insane for us and our family,” Berger told JNS. 

“I will shout my cry to my government and to the world: We will not stop the war unless the hostages are back, and the world asking Israel to stop the war without demanding the release of the hostages is having the opposite effect,” he continued.

“We will not stop until they are home. This is the only way that it will stop and this is our goal,” he said. 

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