Update: Israel has made a substantial proposal for a new ceasefire deal that includes multiple phases at the end of which all remaining hostages held in Gaza would be released.
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Over 100 Israelis remain held in captivity in the Gaza Strip, but there have been no signs of any renewed hostage exchange deal on the horizon, leaving loved ones despondent over their fate. Arab media sources have blamed the Israeli government for the collapse of ceasefire negotiations, but talks have remained delicate and complicated, and have been on again off again.
Lack of any clear plan or strategy to gain the release of the captives has continued causing deep anger within Israeli society, amid growing suspicions that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will keep the war going in part to ensure his own political survival. The protest movement led by the relatives, who feel that Israeli leadership just isn’t doing enough, has escalated as a group burst into a closed-door session of Knesset Monday in order to demand action. Watch:
“אתם לא תשבו כאן ולנו מתים הילדים שלנו!” – משפחות החטופים התפרצו לוועדת הכספים בדרישה להשיב את החטופים: “מה עם פדיון שבויים?” pic.twitter.com/dypLHW8pNC
— ערוץ כנסת (@KnessetT) January 22, 2024
The group of about 20 protesters were able plow forward past Knesset security staff to barge into a hearing of Knesset Finance Committee, and the incident was all caught on video and is being featured on Israeli media frontpages. One man was physically being held back by a security guard but still bulled forward.
“You will not sit here while our children die,” the protesters yelled. “What about ransoming captives?” It reportedly took physical force for security to eventually remove them, and at least one protester required treatment by paramedics.
While PM Netanyahu was not present at the session, the protest movement has escalated its tactics against him, having set up tents outside his residence to hold round-the-clock demonstrations.
Of the some 250 people kidnapped on Oct.7 – 105 were freed back in November as a result of Qatari-mediated negotiations. Of the rest which remained in captivity, the Israeli miliary has since confirmed 31 have died or been executed. Three of these were killed in a tragic friendly fire incident which outraged Israeli society.
More footage of Monday’s incident…
Families of the Israeli hostages captured on October 7th entered Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, forcing their way through security forces as their rage over Netanyahu’s failure to achieve any significant military or diplomatic progress grows. pic.twitter.com/74zrJcUWqp
— MintPress News (@MintPressNews) January 22, 2024
The protesters further accused lawmakers of playing politics with their family members’ lives. In many cases, the wait is all the more agonizing for family members given they have no proof of life from Hamas.
As fighting has intensified, especially in south Gaza’s Khan Younis, hopes have faded for a new substantial prisoner swap deal with Hamas. In November, hundreds of Palestinians were released from Israeli jails as part of the deal. There have since been rumors that the two warring sides were close to reaching another deal, but one hasn’t materialized. The ongoing Gaza operation and the question of long-term strategy has been an increasing source of tension and division in Israeli society.