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‘Biden is our only hope’: Thousands of Israelis urge hostage deal

‘Biden is our only hope’: Thousands of Israelis urge hostage deal
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TEL AVIV: Thousands of Israelis rallied in Tel Aviv Saturday (Jun 1) to demand acceptance of a ceasefire and hostage release deal outlined by US President Joe Biden, with many fearing the premier would reject the proposal.

Israeli and US flags dotted the crowd in the central plaza they have dubbed Hostages Square, alongside banners urging: “Bring them home!”

“Biden is our only hope,” protester Abigail Zur, 34, told AFP.

The US president said on Friday that Israel was offering a new three-stage roadmap towards a full ceasefire, including the release of hostages held by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

Demonstrators told AFP they were worried that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would disown the deal.

“Biden cares about our hostages more than Netanyahu does,” said Karen, a protester in her early fifties, as others chanted: “Now, Now”.

Netanyahu was more concerned about his own political future, said protester Diti Kapuano, 46.

“I hope that somehow Biden puts enough pressure so the government and Netanyahu will take the deal,” she said.

Campaign group the Hostages and Missing Families Forum said in a statement: “In light of President Biden’s speech last night, we will demand that the Israeli government immediately approve the (hostage release deal) and bring all the hostages home at once.

“We will also call on all government ministers and coalition members to publicly commit to supporting the deal and not to allow the possibility of torpedoing it and endangering the hostages,” the group said, adding that it had contacted various embassies to urge them to support the plan.

Netanyahu insisted on Saturday that the plan laid out by Biden did not preclude fighting on until Hamas’s ability to rule Gaza and pose a threat to Israel had been destroyed.

Relatives and supporters of Israelis held hostage by Palestinian Hamas militants in Gaza since the Oct 7 attacks, demonstrate to call for their release in Tel Aviv on Jun 1, 2024. (Photo: AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

Hamas said it “views positively” the plan laid out by Biden.

The Gaza war was sparked by Hamas’s unprecedented Oct 7 attack, which resulted in the deaths of 1,189 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 36,379 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

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