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Israel hostage families urge foreign pressure for Gaza truce

By AFP

May 7, 2024 11:09 PM


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Families of hostages held in Gaza have urged the United States and other governments with citizens among the captives to pressure Israel to strike a deal with Hamas for their return.

Following indications Monday of progress in talks towards a truce in the seven-month war, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum said it had appealed to a number of countries to "exert your influence on the Israeli government" and push for an agreement.

"At this crucial moment, while a tangible opportunity for the release of the hostages is on the table, it is of the utmost importance that your government manifest its strong support for such an agreement," the group said in a message sent to the ambassadors of all countries with citizens among the hostages seized by Palestinian militants on October 7.

"This is the time to exert your influence on the Israeli government and all other parties concerned to ensure that the agreement comes through which will finally bring all our loved ones home."

During the October 7 attack that sparked the brutal war in Gaza, Palestinian militants seized around 250 hostages, who included foreigners and dual nationals, among them US, Thai, French, British and Russian citizens.

Israel estimates 128 hostages remain in Gaza, including 35 the military says are dead.

Hostage families have been among those pressing through repeated protests for Israel to reach a deal with Hamas to bring home the captives.

 Progress towards truce? 

 Tuesday's message came after Hamas announced late Monday that it had accepted a ceasefire plan proposed by Egyptian and Qatari mediators, saying the ball was now in Israel's court.

Despite months of shuttle diplomacy, mediators have so far failed to broker a new truce like the week-long ceasefire that saw 105 hostages released last November, the Israelis among them in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Previous negotiation efforts had stalled in part because of Hamas's demand for a lasting ceasefire and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's vows to crush its remaining fighters in Rafah.

Israel said on Monday it would examine the truce proposal accepted by Hamas.

But at the same time, it also sent tanks into Rafah and seized control of its border crossing with Egypt, the main entry point for aid to Gaza.

A poll published on Tuesday by the Israel Democracy Institute's Viterbi Center for Public Opinion suggested a majority of Jewish Israelis think it more important to reach the deal to release the hostages than to push ahead with military action in Rafah.

The survey conducted over the past week, with 600 people interviewed in Hebrew and 150 interviewed in Arabic, found that 56 percent of Jewish respondents said a hostage release deal should be of the highest priority for the country's national interests.

That sentiment was shared by a full 88.5 percent of the Arab Israelis surveyed.

Hamas's October 7 attack resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel's retaliatory offensive against the group has killed at least 34,789 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.


AFP


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