Demonstrations in support of the hostage’s families take place on Saturday evening across Israel. Demonstrators also called for the removal of far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Prisoners exchange now”, representatives of families whose loved ones are being held captive in Gaza demonstration at the Tel-Aviv Museum, in front of the Defense Ministry’s complex, Saturday, October 28, 2023 (Footage: Zo Haderech)
In front of the Defense Ministry’s complex in Tel Aviv, where a regular protest vigil by the abducted individuals’ families takes place, several hundreds of people blocked Kaplan Street several times. This marks the third consecutive week of Saturday evening protests in the same location.
Netanyahu met Saturday with representatives of families whose loved ones are being held captive in Gaza, and pledged that Israel “will exhaust every possibility” to bring about their return. But the representatives urged Netanyahu to agree to an “everyone for everyone” prisoner exchange with the Hamas, trading all Palestinians incarcerated in Israel and the occupied West Bank for the hundreds who were abducted from Israel earlier this month during a deadly attack by Hamas.
Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, said Saturday the group was ready for an “immediate” prisoner swap with Israel. “We are ready to conduct an immediate prisoner exchange deal that includes the release of all Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails in exchange for all prisoners held by the Palestinian resistance,” Sinwar said in a statement.
Demonstrations also took place Saturday night in Jerusalem, where banners urged a prisoner exchange and in Haifa, where hundreds of people at a rally called for the removal of Netanyahu. At the same time, at least other 20 vigils of support for the families of the captives were held in Beersheba, Herzliya, Netanya, Eilat, Atlit, Caesarea, Mevasseret Zion, Kyriat Tivon, Haogen Junction, Arad and Kfar Saba, among other locations.
On Saturday evening, the UN’s top human rights official warned Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza could lead to the deaths of thousands of more Palestinians. The Ministry of Health in Gaza reported that between 27 October, 18:00, and 28 October around noon time, at least 377 Palestinians, including 157 children, had been killed in Gaza. This brings the cumulative reported fatality toll in Gaza since the start of hostilities to 7,703, of whom nearly 66 per cent are reportedly children and women.
“Given the manner in which military operations have been conducted until now, in the context of the 56-year-old occupation, I am raising alarm about the possibly catastrophic consequences of large-scale ground operations in Gaza and the potential for thousands more civilians to die,” said Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
According Türk, “the bombing of the telecommunications infrastructure places the civilian population in grave danger. Ambulances and civil defense teams are no longer able to locate the injured, or the thousands of people estimated to be still under the rubble. Civilians are no longer able to receive updated information on where they can access humanitarian relief and where they may be in less danger.”