'Biden is our only hope': Thousands of Israelis urge captive deal

AFP , Saturday 1 Jun 2024

Thousands of Israelis rallied in Tel Aviv Saturday to demand acceptance of a ceasefire and captive release deal outlined by US President Joe Biden, with many fearing the premier would reject the proposal.

Tel Aviv
Relatives and supporters of Israelis held captive by Palestinian group Hamas in Gaza, demonstrate to call for their release in Tel Aviv on June 1, 2024. AFP


Israeli and US flags dotted the crowd in the central plaza they have dubbed Hostages Square, alongside banners urging: "Bring them home!"

"Biden is our only hope," protester Abigail Zur, 34, told AFP.

The US president said on Friday that Israel was offering a new three-stage roadmap towards a full ceasefire, including the release of captives held by Palestinian group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Demonstrators told AFP they were worried that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would disown the deal.

"Biden cares about our hostages more than Netanyahu does," said Karen, a protester in her early fifties, as others chanted: "Now, Now".

Netanyahu was more concerned about his own political future, said protester Diti Kapuano, 46.

"I hope that somehow Biden puts enough pressure so the government and Netanyahu will take the deal," she said.

Campaign group the Hostages and Missing Families Forum said in a statement: "In light of President Biden's speech last night, we will demand that the Israeli government immediately approve the (hostage release deal) and bring all the hostages home at once."

"We will also call on all government ministers and coalition members to publicly commit to supporting the deal and not to allow the possibility of torpedoing it and endangering the hostages," the group said, adding that it had contacted various embassies to urge them to support the plan.

Netanyahu insisted on Saturday that the plan laid out by Biden did not preclude fighting on until "Hamas's military and governing capabilities" had been destroyed.

Hamas said it "views positively" the plan laid out by Biden.

Israel says 121 captives are still being held in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.

Israel's war on Gaza has killed at least 36,379 Palestinians and wounded more than 80,000, mostly women and children, according to Gaza health officials.

The bloodiest Gaza war erupted on October 7 after Hamas launched a surprise offensive into southern Israel.

The ensuing chaos and a frantic Israeli defence response led to 1,189 deaths, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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