Thousands of Israelis, including relatives of some 240 hostages held by Hamas, marched in Jerusalem on Saturday, criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his handling of the war and demanding that the government do more to free the hostages.
The march ended five days of demonstrations from Tel Aviv and represented the largest demonstration for the hostages since they were taken to Gaza by Hamas on October 7, when the Palestinian group carried out its massacre in Israel. About 1,200 people died in the attack, most of them civilians.
Israel responded by declaring war and more than 11,500 Palestinians have been killed in the six weeks since a massive Israeli offensive.
Israel has set two goals in its offensive: crushing Hamas militarily and freeing the hostages.
Some relatives of the hostages say they fear the military offensive is putting their loved ones at risk. The Israeli government responded that only military pressure would make the Palestinian group release the hostages, as part of an agreement that could include a temporary truce.
The protesters carried Israeli flags and pictures of the hostages, as they completed the 70 kilometers (45 miles) to Jerusalem and gathered in front of Netanyahu’s office.
Netanyahu has so far not agreed to meet with them, angering the families. Other members of the war cabinet – including former opposition leader Benny Gantz and army chief Gadi Eisenkot – were scheduled to meet representatives of the families on Saturday night.
“We are here today, with many families, marching towards Jerusalem, to keep the hostage issue a number one priority for the Israeli government,” said Ruby Chen, whose 19-year-old son one of the hostages.