Dueling rallies held in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to urge hostage deal, Rafah operation

Mother of Matan Zangauker says no limit to the price she’d pay for his return, while father of Eitan Mor says putting military pressure on Hamas is the way to bring back his son

Left: Protesters in Tel Aviv call for the government to agree to a hostage deal on April 11, 2024. (Erik Marmor/Flash90) Right: Protesters in Jerusalem call for the government to begin operating in the southernmost Gaza city of Rafah, April 11, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Left: Protesters in Tel Aviv call for the government to agree to a hostage deal on April 11, 2024. (Erik Marmor/Flash90) Right: Protesters in Jerusalem call for the government to begin operating in the southernmost Gaza city of Rafah, April 11, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Separate, opposing rallies were held Thursday evening in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to call for contradicting goals in the ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza.

In Tel Aviv, hundreds protested near the Kirya military headquarters ahead of a War Cabinet meeting, demanding that a truce deal be reached to free the hostages still being held in the Gaza Strip.

In Jerusalem, meanwhile, hundreds protested near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s private residence, calling for the war to continue until Hamas is destroyed and opposing any ceasefire agreement with the terror group.

Both protests were emotionally charged, with parents of hostages delivering impassioned speeches in which they called on the government to act in ways they believe best for their captive children.

In an exchange with Religious Zionism party MK Michal Waldiger, the mother of 24-year-old Gaza hostage Matan Zangauker told the far-right lawmaker that if her son was “murdered in captivity,” she was required to come and speak at his funeral.

“There is a difference between us,” Einav Zangauker told Waldiger. “You are not ready [to agree to a hostage deal] no matter the price, I am ready, whatever the price.”

“If they tell me that Matan was murdered in captivity, you will be the first to come and eulogize him at his funeral,” she continued. “Take that with you to your meeting and we’ll see what you decide.”

“My son was kidnapped alive, and if he comes back dead, it’s on your hands, and [Religious Zionism chair Bezalel] Smotrich’s, and this government’s hands. My child’s blood is on you.”

People protest in Tel Aviv against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and call for the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip by Hamas, April 11, 2024. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

Zangauker also called out Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman as he arrived at the Kirya, warning him that, “If you sabotage [my son’s] return home — I will chase you until my last day.”

Echoing Zangauker’s belief that a deal with Hamas is necessary no matter the price, hundreds of protesters marched from Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard to Habima Square chanting, “Enough with the bloodshed, bring them home now!”

Banners bearing the faces of several of the hostages were held above the crowd as they marched, including images of Naama Levy and Liri Albag, two of the 19 women still held in Gaza.

Large images of hostages Naama Levy and Liri Albag are held above the crowd as protesters in Tel Aviv call for a hostage deal, April 11, 2024. (Danor Aharon/Pro-Democracy Protest Movement)

At the same time, just over 50 kilometers away in Jerusalem, the father of Eitan Mor, who was taken hostage from the Supernova music festival, issued as emotional an appeal to the government as Zangauker, but with an opposite message.

“We are here thanks to our ancestors, who did not give up and fought for our right to live here,”  Zvika Mor told the crowd, before addressing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the government.

“Don’t give up! This is not the time for humanitarian gestures — just put pressure on Hamas to return the hostages. Mr. Prime Minister, strike Hamas until the end.”

After Mor spoke, Shimon Or, the uncle of Avinatan Or, abducted along with his girlfriend Noa Argamani from the Supernova festival, spoke.

Calling on the government to end the indirect negotiations with Hamas for a temporary truce and hostage release deal, Or instead demanded that the government “Enter Rafah immediately.”

Activists demonstrate in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and continued fighting in the Gaza Strip near the Prime Minister’s official residence in Jerusalem on April 11, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“This is the only way we can return the hostages,” he said, urging the government to make good on its commitment to enter Gaza’s southernmost city, where four Hamas battalions are believed to still be operational.

“We must take responsibility for Gaza, both militarily and humanely, so that the Gazans understand that the State of Israel will be the one to rule Gaza.”

Some 129 hostages remain in captivity in Gaza after 253 were seized during the October 7 massacre, when some 1,200 Israelis were slaughtered by invading terrorists.

The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 34 of those still in captivity, but US and Israeli officials have indicated in recent days that the number of dead may be significantly higher.

In addition to the four Hamas battalions believed to be stationed in Rafah and along with over a million civilians sheltering in the city after fleeing fighting elsewhere in the Strip, Israel believes that Hamas leaders are hiding in the southernmost city, and that the hostages are being held there as well.

The estimation that the hostages are being held in the city has upped the ante for some, who believe an offensive inside Rafah will be the key to victory, as Netanyahu has pledged. Others, however, believe that the last six months of fighting have proven that only diplomatic solutions, not military might, can bring about the return of the hostages.

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