Cries of “Bring them home” rang through Mayfair on Sunday as several hundred people staged a vigil outside the Qatar Embassy to call for the release of the hostages kidnapped by Hamas in the October 7 pogrom in southern Israel.
The Gulf state, which has influence over the terrorist group - providing sanctuary to its political bureau and supplying aid to Gaza - has been brokering negotiations to free the 230 captives.
“We understand that they are the key player in the negotiations,” said Eyal Biram, an MBA student from Tel Aviv in London and one of the ad hoc, predominantly Israeli, group that had organised the event.
“We feel people internationally are not speaking enough about the hostages, he said. “It is critical because every day that continues without release, it gets more complicated. We feel the world has forgotten.”
A poster showing two of the kidnapped Israeli children, Emma and Yuli Cunio is seen attached to a soft toy as people gather outside the Qatari Embassy in London on October 29, 2023, to demand the release of the estimated 230 hostages held in Gaza by Hamas after the attacks inside Israel on October 7. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)
So far just four hostages have been released.
The crowd stood holding hands in a human chain outside the redbrick building as a recorded list of names of the hostages was read out. When such a list was first recorded, it took seven minutes to read out. Now with the addition of new names, it took 12 minutes.
The organisers wore black t-shirts with “203” in red, the number that was known at the time they were designed.
A hundred are still missing, three weeks after more than 1,500 terrorists broke through Israel’s border fence with Gaza and ran amok, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians.
People hold up posters of the missing as they gather outside the Qatari Embassy in London on October 29, 2023, to demand the release of the estimated 230 hostages held in Gaza by Hamas after the attacks inside Israel on October 7. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Mr Biram lost nine friends, some among the 260 dead who had been attending a music festival.
The rain that fell in the capital for much of the day held off for the hour-long vigil where yellow ribbons were handed out to the participants, some draped in Israeli flags.
“Releasing the hostages is the first step on the path to peace,” Gary Weiss, a London-based Israeli, told the crowd.
“We worry for their health, for their survival and long to see them reunited with their families.”
He highlighted the plight of the Troupanov family, Sasha, 27; his girlfriend Sapir Cohen, 29; Sasha’s mother Lena, 50, and grandmother Irena, 73, who were taken into Gaza. Lena’s husband Vitali was murdered.
“Sasha and I work in the same company,” he said.
Brandishing posters bearing the pictures of the hostages, the orderly crowd sang Oseh Shalom (“He who Makes Peace”), Gesher Tzar Me’od (“The World is a Narrow Bridge) and finally the Hatikvah before dispersing into the fading afternoon light.