May 30, 2024

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Live updates of the war between Israel and Hamas: Latest news on Gaza and the Middle East

Live updates of the war between Israel and Hamas: Latest news on Gaza and the Middle East

Relatives and supporters of those kidnapped on October 7 in Israel turned their weekly vigil into a somber vigil on Saturday, remembering the hostage whose body was recovered this week in Gaza and whose plight angered thousands at a nearby anti-government protest.

The Israeli army said on Saturday that it had recovered the body of Elad Katzir (47 years old) from Khan Yunis and returned him to his homeland. Mr. Katzir was kidnapped by the armed Islamic Jihad group from Kibbutz Nir Oz. He appeared twice in videos during his captivity, and died in January at the hands of his captors, according to the Israeli military, an assertion that cannot be verified.

The news came on the eve of the war's sixth anniversary on Sunday, with thousands expected to gather in Israel for more protests.

“We have been living in a nightmare for six months,” said Esther Buchstab, the mother of Yagiv Buchstab, 34, who was transferred from Kibbutz Nirim on October 7, while speaking at a vigil in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening in Israel. She added: “We call on the state to do everything in its power to reach an agreement, to return the living for rehabilitation and the dead for burial.”

Nearby, in Democracy Square, thousands of anti-government protesters called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to return more than 130 hostages still missing after October 7.

As the protest ended, a car ran into a crowd of demonstrators in violation of police orders, injuring a number of people, according to a statement issued by the police on the Telegram app. It was not clear why the driver drove the car into the crowd, but the driver ignored police orders to stop and the passengers in the car could be seen shouting at the protesters in a video posted on social media.

People participate in a protest against the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and demand the release of hostages.credit…Hannah McKay – Reuters

Eran Herkevi, 66, an agricultural specialist, said that “the destruction of Hamas” and “absolute victory” are meaningless slogans. “There is real pressure to return the remaining hostages, otherwise the public will never be able to recover as a society.”

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Sarit Pearl, 65, a retired mother of three combat soldiers, echoed these sentiments. It called for Netanyahu's removal and new elections to be held to replace him.

“I am here today because there are three things that need to happen now: accountability, the return of all the hostages, and elections,” she said.

Ms. Perle criticized Mr. Netanyahu, who faces growing calls for elections and whose Jerusalem home has been the site of repeated protests, including earlier this week.

“Netanyahu has never served as prime minister,” Ms. Perle said. But now it appears that he is deliberately acting to destroy the chances of success in reaching an agreement, and nothing in Israel will ever recover as long as he remains in office.”

Sahar Shapira (42 years old) said that the death of hostage Mr. Katsir highlighted the urgent need to reach an agreement to return the hostages. “It is clear to people that the hostages cannot survive,” she added, predicting that “many others like him will return in a similar way.”

In an interview with The New York Times in 2009, after Palestinian rocket attacks led to a three-week Israeli offensive against Hamas in Gaza, Mr. Katsir told a reporter that he had a nagging feeling. “I don’t feel any victory,” Katsir said at the time, when the fighting ended in a fragile ceasefire. “I still don't feel safe.”

News of Mr. Katsir's death inflamed tensions in Israel. In a statement announcing the vigil on Saturday, representatives of relatives of Israeli hostages called for a gathering in Jerusalem on Sunday to participate in a march marking six months of war.

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The families of the kidnapped people organize marches in a public square near the Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv every Saturday to pressure the government to reach an agreement for the return of their relatives. The rallies often coincide with anti-government protests.

Israeli officials will meet with representatives of Egypt, Qatar and the United States in Cairo on Sunday to resume discussions on the hostage deal that has been stalled for months. President Biden is pressuring the participants to reach an agreement that leads to an “immediate ceasefire” and the return of the hostages.

Noam Peri, the daughter of Haim Peri, 79, who was captured from Kibbutz Nir Oz and who Hamas claimed in December was among five hostages killed in Gaza in an Israeli air strike, called on the Israeli government to take action. “Mr. Prime Minister, members of the Cabinet, this is on you! Don’t come back without a deal!” she said, adding.