Families of hostages begin 4-day march to advocate for release deal

Efforts to score a deal have been ongoing since the last deal in November.

By Troy O. Fritzhand, The Algemeiner

Family members of those still held captive in Gaza began a four-day march on Wednesday to Jerusalem, with the goal of building pressure for a deal to secure their release.

“Join us! I’m marching for my husband and for all the abductees,” chanted Sharon Aloni Konio, a former hostage herself who joined the march that begins at Kibbutz Re’im, one of the many Israeli towns attacked by Hamas on October 7.

During that fateful day, Sharon, her husband, and more than 240 others were kidnapped from their homes, a music festival, or military bases and taken captive in the Gaza Strip. An additional more than 1,200 were killed.

The march leaves from the Gaza border town and is led by roughly 70 families of those being held, alongside supporters of the cause. Their goal is to arrive in Jerusalem, where they will petition the government to pursue another deal to bring about their release.

Sharon was one of the more than 100 hostages released in November during a deal brokered between Israel, Hamas, the US, and Qatar.

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She told the group, “There are no words to express our gratitude. I also want to join in and say that my heart goes out to the bereaved families. They are truly heroes. Everyone who fought there is an indescribable hero. I ask everyone who can: Join us and show us your support in our important struggle.”

Another member of the march, the grandson of one of the elderly hostages being held, Oded Lifshitz, told the supporters: “145 days of hope that has not yet been realized and still has not faded. The gift and its resurrection. We are still waiting to see 134 people from our family, who will return to hug their children, return to their border or be able to reach their eternal rest. We are marching for Israel’s revival. We need to bring them all back.”

It is estimated that 134 hostages remain in captivity, including seven women, 15 men over the age of 50, and 13 hostages who are sick or injured, among a number of soldiers. The IDF estimates that around 50 of the 134 hostages have been killed in captivity or were taken by Hamas dead from Israel.

The parents of a soldier who joined the IDF from the US, Omar Neutra, said, “The support is broad and inclusive and comes from all shades of the people of Israel, each in their own way, because that’s how we are the most beautiful. I say thank you for all this beauty, all the light and the mobilization for us, the families of the abductees. Their return is a top value for all of us. Our strength is in our unity. Out of this unity we embark on a journey from the place where the terrible disaster began to Jerusalem, our eternal capital.”

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Efforts to score a deal have been ongoing since the last deal in November. Israeli representatives met with American, Qatari, and Egyptian representatives in Paris last week, where an outline for a new deal was agreed upon.

US President Joe Biden expressed optimism for its conclusion, though Israeli officials quickly pushed back, saying a deal was not imminent.

Hamas has stood firm in its demands that the IDF retreat completely from the Gaza Strip, as well as pushing for the release of thousands of terrorists held in Israeli prisons.

It is yet to be seen if a breakthrough will occur in the interim.

According to reports from Israeli outlets, mediators are trying to secure a deal prior to the beginning of Ramadan on March 10, which marks month-long daily fasts by Muslims around the world, and has historically been a time of increased tension in Israel.