Thousands of Israelis continue to march, urging government to step up efforts to free detainees in Gaza

Thousands of Israelis on Saturday continued their march along the highway that links West Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, calling on the government to step up efforts to free Israelis who are being held captive in Gaza.

The march coincided with negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, mediated by Qatar and Egypt and endorsed by the US.

The march organized by the families of Israelis held in Gaza by Hamas began on Tuesday in Tel Aviv and it is scheduled to arrive Saturday evening near the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in West Jerusalem.

Israeli Channel 12 estimates that approximately 20,000 people are taking part in the march.

‘The families invited all members of the War Cabinet to meet them this evening, saying: You are responsible for returning them (Israeli detainees) now,’ the broadcaster reported, citing a statement issued by the organizer.

It also indicated that the members of the Military Ministerial Council, Benny Gantz, and Gadi Eizenkot, will meet with proteste
rs later Saturday evening, while Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer have not confirmed their attendance yet.

Earlier on Friday, Israel’s National Security Council head Tzachi Hanegbi said there is currently no prisoner exchange agreement.

‘The government has taken an unequivocal decision that there will be no cease-fire without a very significant release of the abductees. We stand by that and do not compromise,’ Hanegbi said in a press conference in Tel Aviv.

The Israeli army says that Hamas has been detaining 239 Israelis in Gaza, both military and civilian, since Oct. 7.

Hamas says that it wants to exchange Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners in Israel, a cease-fire in Gaza, and the introduction of humanitarian aid to the population.

According to Palestinian sources, Israel detains more than 7,000 Palestinians in its prisons, including women and children.

Source: Anadolu Agency