ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 148

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Gantz: Israel will employ 'force and political action'

A month after loved ones taken captive, families of hostages howl on global stage

Rallies held in Israel, New York, DC, London, elsewhere begging for release of 240 captives; foreign minister heading to Brussels as Israel tries to intensify diplomatic pressure

People pray the for the hostages from Israel held captive in Hamas during a vigil at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, November 7, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
People pray the for the hostages from Israel held captive in Hamas during a vigil at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, November 7, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Marking a month since at least 245 people in Israel were taken captive into Gaza, family, friends and allies of the hostages held rallies and prayer vigils across Israel and around the world demanding their release, as Israel tries to ramp up diplomatic pressure to have them freed.

At the Western Wall on Tuesday evening, family members of the 240 people still believed to be held hostage in Gaza gathered for a prayer service, and lit a “torch of life” as they prayed desperately for their safe and immediate return.

Rallies calling for their release — as well as marking a month since some 1,400 people, most of them civilians, were murdered during Hamas’s rampage in southern Israel — were held across the country.

Similar events and vigils demanding the release of captives were held in Rome, Berlin, London, New York, Washington, Rio De Janeiro, and other cities around the world.

Four of the hostages have been released since October 7, and one was rescued in an IDF operation. Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry appointed a new official to head its diplomatic efforts on the hostages, and Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is heading on Wednesday to Brussels to speak to the European Parliament about the issue.

In a primetime address on Tuesday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the families of the hostages: “I want you to know that we are working in every manner, on every front, to bring your loved ones, our loved ones, home,” he said, pointing to both military and diplomatic efforts.

Hundreds hold a protest outside UN headquarters in New York City, demanding the release of the hostages in Gaza, on November 7, 2023. (Omer Kaplan)

At the United Nations headquarters in New York, hundreds demonstrated outside on Tuesday demanding the release of the captives and calling on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to act immediately in the face of what they say is the largest hostage crisis in modern history.

Demonstrating on behalf of the Israeli Hostages and Missing Families Forum, the protesters held up posters with pictures of the wife and children of UN Secretary-General Guterres, labeled as hostages, with the caption: “What would you do if your family members were held hostage?” Some of the activists also blindfolded themselves to simulate the hostages currently being held by Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza.

In Washington, outside the US Capitol, a group of relatives of some of the hostages held a press conference on Tuesday with US Republican leadership on Capitol Hill.

Doris Liber, a US citizen, shared the story of her 26-year-old son Guy Iluz, who is believed to be among the hostages in Gaza. She said she last spoke with her son after he was shot in the arm during the Hamas massacre in the music festival in Re’im on October 7, and has not heard from him since.

Doris Liber, whose son Guy Iluz is being held hostage in Gaza, speaks as Republican conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik, left, and House Speaker Mike Johnson look on, during a press conference at the Capitol in Washington on Nov. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades)

“I’m here because it’s been 30 days. Every day is like an eternity to me, and I can’t wait any longer,” she said, breaking down in tears as House Speaker Mike Johnson stood solemnly behind her. “I know that he was shot. We don’t have a list, we don’t have their conditions, I don’t have anything. I need your help. I’m part of your people, you’re part of Israel. I’m so proud of being an American, but I do need you now.”

Yonatan Lulu Shamriz told reporters at the Capitol that he lived on the same kibbutz from which his brother Alon was kidnapped.

“I want to thank everyone here for having us, to the American government that helps us, but it’s not enough,” he said. “This is a call for action… this is a wakeup call for all of you here, all of America, all of Europe.”

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Tuesday that the IDF “will continue until victory and until the hostages are returned home,” reiterating the Israeli position that there will be no humanitarian pauses without the return of at least some of the hostages.

A woman writes on a photo of people held hostage in Gaza at an installation in Tel Aviv, Nov. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Minister Benny Gantz said Tuesday that Israel will “do everything to bring them home — by force and by political action. We will fight those who need it, and we will talk to anyone we can.”

The Foreign Ministry on Tuesday appointed Alon Roth-Snir — Israel’s incoming ambassador to New Zealand — to head the diplomatic effort to free the hostages, working to pressure international audiences on the issue. Foreign Minister Cohen said that the appointment is aimed to “advance international efforts in a number of forums that will assist in the speedy release of all the hostages.”

Cohen will be heading to Brussels on Wednesday along with families of Israeli hostages, where he will speak in front of the European parliament. He will also meet with European Parliament head Roberta Metsola and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Lazar Berman, AFP and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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