newsIsrael at War

Tens of thousands rally in J’lem to mark six months since Hamas massacre

Families of the captives in Gaza, supporters call on Israel's government to bring them home.

Israelis take part in a protest outside the Knesset in Jerusalem marking six months since the Hamas-led Oct. 7 invasion, April 7, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Israelis take part in a protest outside the Knesset in Jerusalem marking six months since the Hamas-led Oct. 7 invasion, April 7, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

At least 50,000 people descended on the government campus in Jerusalem’s Givat Ram neighborhood on Sunday night for a rally to mark half a year since Hamas terrorists murdered some 1,200 people and kidnapped 253 others in southern Israel, according to organizers.

The father of Israeli captive Rom Braslavski told JNS at the rally that his family “can’t suffer like this anymore,” and urged the government to do whatever is necessary to free the 133 remaining hostages held in Gaza.

“It’s been half a year that he is there. I hope that people will wake up and that everyone will come home. We can’t suffer like this anymore, we don’t have the strength. We really hope even the bodies, the young and the elderly, everyone together will return,” Ofir Braslavski said.

“I have not heard from my son since then, I didn’t think we would be in this situation [after six months]. I keep waiting another day, another night, another Shabbat,” he continued.

“[Rom] just went to work, he didn’t hurt anyone, he is not interested in politics. On the contrary, he helped people in Gaza and we hope he will return.

“It’s more important than everything else,” said Ofir.

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.

Hostages and Missing Families Forum

Daniel Shek, a former Israeli ambassador to France who heads the Hostages and Missing Families Forum’s diplomacy team, told JNS, “This is a tragic anniversary. It should never have happened. Six months is far too long.

“The reminder that we got yesterday, with the tragic news of the death of Elad Katzir, just makes it worse to know that the list of 133 hostages, which is composed of people who are still alive and people who are not, goes just in one direction, he said.

“The longer it will take, the less we have a chance to free live hostages,” added Shek.

Katzir was kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Oz by Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists 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 in a complex special forces operation. 

The father of Nimrod Cohen, a soldier kidnapped by Hamas terrorists near Kibbutz Nirim on Oct. 7, told JNS that his family is attending Sunday night’s rally in Jerusalem to “fight for the captives.”

“We are here to push for a deal to release all of the hostages, to ask the government to go for an agreement,” said Yehuda Cohen. 

“The IDF is withdrawing from Gaza, we know there is no fighting. People from Gaza are moving from south to north. Hamas is getting all its demands without giving us anything, and we are getting weaker,” he continued.

“We see that [President Joe] Biden is forcing [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu to send a delegation to the negotiations [in Cairo], we actually call on the American leader to help us get our loved ones back home,” added Cohen.

Yotam and Yehuda Cohen, the brother and father of IDF soldier Nimrod Cohen, who was kidnapped near Kibbutz Nirim on Oct. 7, prepare for rally in Jerusalem, April 7, 2024. Photo by Amelie Botbol.

Israel’s War Cabinet decided on Sunday to send a delegation to Egypt to participate in the latest round of negotiations aimed at securing the release of the hostages held by Hamas.

Mossad Director David Barnea will again lead the team as American, Egyptian, Israeli and Qatari mediators try to build on other summits held in recent months in the city as well as in Doha and Paris.

Hamas has stuck to its maximalist positions throughout the process, demands that Jerusalem has called “delusional” and which include a “permanent ceasefire,” an Israeli military withdrawal from the coastal enclave, a return of displaced Gazans and the release of hundreds of terrorists from Israeli prisons.

Israeli soldiers operating in the Gaza Strip, April 6, 2024. Credit: IDF.

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

Though noting that 110 hostages have 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.

“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,” added Meir.

Fighting in Gaza

Earlier on Sunday, the Israel Defense Forces withdrew all ground troops from the southern Gaza Strip, leaving only one brigade remaining in the coastal enclave.

Hours later, terrorists in Khan Yunis fired four rockets towards towns in Israel’s Eshkol region. The Iron Dome aerial defense system intercepted two of the rockets.

The last brigade remaining in the Strip is reportedly the Nahal infantry unit, which is there to secure the Netzarim Corridor that splits the Gazan north and south, enabling the IDF to control movements in the Strip. It crosses the Strip from the Be’eri area in southern Israel to the Mediterranean coast.

The Netzarim Corridor prevents Gazans from returning to the north of the Strip and allows for humanitarian aid to enter directly into northern Gaza.

Israel is determined to complete its mission to eliminate Hamas in Gaza, including in the southernmost city of Rafah, Netanyahu reiterated on Sunday afternoon following the troop pullout.

“Citizens of Israel, there is no war more just than this one, and we are determined to achieve total victory,” said Netanyahu in an address to the nation marking six months since Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks.

“I have made it clear to the international community: There will be no ceasefire without the return of the hostages. It simply will not happen,” vowed the premier.

Biden Netanyahu
U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and their respective governmental teams, meet in Tel Aviv about the war with the Hamas terror organization that rules the Gaza Strip, Oct. 18, 2023. Credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO.

In a phone call on Thursday, Biden demanded that Netanyahu improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza, stressing that “an immediate ceasefire is essential to stabilize and improve the humanitarian situation and protect innocent civilians.”

Biden also urged Netanyahu “to empower his negotiators to conclude a deal without delay to bring the hostages home,” the White House said.

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, also attended Sunday’s 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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