Relatives of Israeli hostages arrested during protest as Gaza talks collapse

  • Written by Yolande Knell
  • BBC News, Jerusalem

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About 300 people participated in a protest on Tuesday in front of the Israeli army headquarters in Tel Aviv

Relatives of an Israeli prisoner held in Gaza were reportedly among those arrested by police during a demonstration in Tel Aviv, after recent talks on a truce and hostage release collapsed.

Some family members and activists used cages to block a main road on Tuesday night, as they demanded that more be done to release those still held by Hamas.

Their calls have become more desperate since the return of negotiators from Qatar.

An Israeli official said that the indirect talks had reached a “dead end.”

The mediators were pressing to reach an agreement to halt the Israeli attack on Gaza for six weeks in exchange for the release of 40 of the remaining 130 hostages. At least 30 hostages are presumed dead.

About 300 people participated in a demonstration on Tuesday in front of the Israeli army headquarters in Tel Aviv, some locked in cages, others carrying signs saying “No price is too high.”

Israeli police said they arrested four demonstrators “after disturbances occurred.”

The statement added, “The police acted with the required sensitivity and allowed some of the hostages' families to protest even though this was illegal.” “But some protesters decided to take to the Ayalon Expressway and block traffic, putting motorists and themselves in danger.”

Israeli media said that two of the detainees are relatives of the 79-year-old hostage, Avraham Monder.

Among them was his nephew, Shahar Mor Zahiro, who later confirmed in a video outside the police station that he had been detained for nearly three hours.

Video explanation,

“Hope is mandatory”: The hostage's mother believes her son will return

Monder was kidnapped, along with his wife Ruth, daughter Keren, and grandson Ohad, when Hamas fighters stormed southern Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking 253 hostage, according to Israeli statistics.

Ruth, Keren and Ohad were released during a week-long ceasefire in November under an agreement under which 105 hostages – most of them women and children – were released in exchange for the release of about 240 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons.

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid said the state “must show more compassion and sensitivity towards the families of the hostages.”

“They and their families have been abandoned, and their fight is the fairest fight of all.” He wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “The minimum is to let them scream their screams.”

There were almost daily demonstrations by the families of the hostages, but their suffering worsened after news of the recall of Israeli officials from the talks in Doha mediated by Qatar, Egypt and the United States.

A high-ranking Israeli official close to Mossad Director David Barnea – who heads the Israeli negotiating team – told Reuters news agency on Tuesday that they had “reached a dead end” due to Hamas' demands.

Israel had agreed to double the number of Palestinian prisoners to 700 or 800 in exchange for the release of 40 hostages – including the elderly, women, children and the sick – as well as allowing some displaced Palestinians to return to their homes in northern Gaza. The official said.

Video explanation,

Watch: Reports of Gaza residents drowning after a video showed them rushing to drop aid that fell into the sea

Hamas said on Monday that it rejected the latest truce proposal and that it was sticking to its original position calling for a permanent ceasefire that would lead to a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.

The Israeli Prime Minister's Office said that Hamas's position shows its “absolute lack of interest” in reaching an agreement and shows the “damage” caused by the UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire.

But the US said the Israeli statement was “inaccurate in almost all respects and unfair to the hostages and their families” because Hamas' response was “prepared before the UN Security Council vote.”

At the same time, Qatar insisted that the talks are “continuing” and “have not stopped.”

A halt to the fighting appears as elusive as ever on the ground in Gaza, where more than 32,490 people have been killed since the start of the war, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in the enclave.

With the risk of man-made famine in the north growing with only a trickle of aid arriving, this week once again saw crowds waiting for food drops along the coast.

However, at least 18 people were said to have died, and graphic videos showed some people drowning while trying to retrieve aid packages from the sea, while others were said to have died in stampedes.

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