Thousands of protesters have rallied in Tel Aviv, demanding immediate release of the captives from besieged Gaza, as pressure grows on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the fate of hundreds of Israelis seized by Palestinian resistance group Hamas during its October 7 blitz in southern Israel.
Also on Saturday, a separate group of Israeli protesters demanded immediate ceasefire in Gaza where Israeli bombardment and land invasion has left more than 11,000 Palestinians dead, mostly civilians, and some 2,700 missing who are thought to be trapped or buried alive under debris of bombed homes.
"Honestly, I don’t think any other country in the world would have that" says Shiri Grosbard, a 46-year-old protester, adding, "For 35 days, not one person from the Red Cross has been allowed to visit with them and let us know that they are okay and give us a sign of life from any of them."
"We want to bring them back to Israel and home to their family; they are already five weeks without us; it's hard for us to think they are held there," said Sigall Yahalomi, whose cousins Ohad and Yahalomi are held in Gaza, one of them is with his son Eitan.
Israeli activists call for ceasefire
Meanwhile, a group of Israeli activists protested in front of the Defence Ministry to call for an end to Israel's war on besieged Gaza.
"We come here to ask for a ceasefire. I think this is right now the only demonstration of mainly Jewish Israelis who are asking to stop the massive bombarding of Gaza, to stop the ongoing transfer in the [occupied] West Bank, and to start finding peaceful solutions for the situation," Yaara Benger Alaluf, an anti-war campaigner, said.
Another protester, Tal Mitnik, said: "In the past couple of weeks, using this war the government has taken power into its own hands and has disallowed any form of protest against the indiscriminate killing of civilians in Gaza and against the war and working towards a solution. Today, we are here to also protest against that."
"We are calling to end the war and to protect everyone, also the kids in Gaza, also the kids in Sderot. And to work towards a solution that will last for everyone and bring safety and security for everyone here," he added.
Demonstrations also took place in other cities across Israel, according to Haaretz, including Be’er Sheva, Eilat and Caesarea.
Possible swap deal
Israel's three major TV news channels, without citing named sources, said there was some progress toward a deal to free hostages from Gaza.
PM Netanyahu said he would not discuss details of any possible deal, which according to N12 News would involve 50 to 100 women, children and elderly being released in stages during a three to five day pause in fighting.
According to the reports, Israel would release women and minor Palestinian prisoners from its jails and consider letting fuel in to Gaza, while reserving the right to resume fighting after the deal.
"When we have something concrete to say then we will update the families and bring it to the government," Netanyahu said.
"Until then silence would be best."