The families of Israelis being held hostage by Hamas in the Gaza Strip kicked off a five-day march on Tuesday from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to demand the government do much more to secure their release.
Hamas fighters took around 240 people hostage during their Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel. The captives ranged in age from nine months to 85 and are believed to be being held in tunnels deep under the Gaza Strip.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is coming under fierce criticism from some relatives for not doing more to secure their release as the Israeli military pushes deep into Gaza with an order to destroy Hamas.
“I demand from Benjamin Netanyahu and the cabinet to give us answers and actions,” said Shelly Shem Tov, whose 21-year-old son Omer was dragged into Gaza five weeks ago.
“Where are you? Where are you?” she said, addressing the government in an impassioned plea at the start of the march.
The armed wing of the Palestinian militant group Hamas said on Monday it was ready to release up to 70 women and children hostages in return for a five-day truce and the release of 275 Palestinian women and children held in Israeli prisons.
It said Israel was “procrastinating and evading” the price of the deal.
Netanyahu has so far rejected any talk of a ceasefire, telling NBC News on Sunday that he would only be willing to pause the fighting if all the hostages were freed.
He added that the best way to secure a deal was to maintain military pressure on Hamas. “That’s the one thing that might create a deal and if a deal is available, well, we will talk about it when it’s there,” he said.
Israel says Hamas has lost control of the coastal enclave. Medical officials say more than 11,100 Palestinians, around 40 % of them children, have died as a result of Israeli strikes.
The Gaza militants have so far released four hostages, the last on Oct. 23.
The Israeli military on Tuesday confirmed the death of a captive soldier, who Hamas said was killed in an Israeli strike.
The Tel Aviv marchers will end their protest on Saturday in front of Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem, some 65 km (40 miles) away.
“I don’t feel like we are in good hands. We don’t feel like we get enough information. We fell into the darkness. We want answers,” said Amit Zach, the nephew of 72-year-old hostage Adina Moshe.
“I don’t have a solution, but it’s not my job to get a solution. It’s my job to demand my family back,” he added.
Holding up pictures of the captives, the crowd chanted “Bring them home now!” One man shouted: “Everyone!”