Israel captive families urge foreign pressure for Gaza truce

AFP , Tuesday 7 May 2024

Families of captives being held in Gaza called on the United States and other governments with citizens among the captives to pressure Israel to strike a deal with Hamas for their return.

A woman holds a sign identifying Matan Zangauker (24), one of the captives taken during the October
A woman holds a sign identifying Matan Zangauker (24), one of the captives taken during the October 7 attacks, as she stands on the roof of a car during a demonstration by captives relatives and supporters in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on May 6, 2024, amid the ongoing Israeli war on Gaza. AFP


Following indications Monday of progress in talks towards a truce in the seven-month war, the “Hostages and Missing Families Forum” said it had appealed to several countries to "exert your influence on the Israeli government" and push for an agreement.

"At this crucial moment, while a tangible opportunity for the release of the captives is on the table, it is of the utmost importance that your government manifest its strong support for such an agreement," the group said in a message sent to the ambassadors of all countries with citizens among the captives seized by Palestinian militants on October 7.

"This is the time to exert your influence on the Israeli government and all other parties concerned to ensure that the agreement comes through which will finally bring all our loved ones home."

During the October 7 attack that sparked the current brutal Israeli war on Gaza, Palestinian militants seized around 250 captives, who included foreigners and dual nationals, among them US, Thai, French, British and Russian citizens.

Israel estimates 128 captives remain in Gaza, including 35 the military says are dead.

Captive families have been among those pressing through repeated protests for Israel to reach a deal with Hamas to bring home the captives.

Tuesday's message came after Hamas announced late Monday that it had accepted a ceasefire plan proposed by Egyptian and Qatari mediators, saying the ball was now in Israel's court.

Despite months of shuttle diplomacy, mediators have until now failed to broker a new truce like the week-long ceasefire that saw 105 captives released last November, the Israelis among them in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Previous negotiation efforts had stalled in part because of Hamas's demand for a lasting ceasefire and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's vows to crush its remaining fighters in Rafah.

Israel said Monday it would examine the truce proposal accepted by Hamas.

But at the same time, it sent tanks into Rafah and seized control of its border crossing with Egypt, the main entry point for aid to Gaza.

The Hamas attack resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel's offensive on Gaza has killed at least 34,789 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

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