Thousands call for release of hostages held by Hamas outside Parliament

Crowds held up hundreds of hostage posters and wore yellow ribbons in solidarity


Over 3,000 people formed a human chain round Parliament Square on Sunday morning in a bid to awaken the world to the plight of the 241 hostages held captive in Gaza by Hamas.

Marking nearly 30 days since the brutal terrorist attacks in the south of Israel, when 1,400 people were murdered and hundreds of people, including babies, the elderly and chronically ill were abducted, rally-goers were asked to dress in black in keeping with the solemnity of the occasion.

But the mood was equally one of defiance as the chant: “Bring them home!” was shouted loudly between speeches and people held hostage posters aloft while wearing yellow ribbons as a symbol of solidarity.

Tomer Haiman, one of the organisers, told the crowd: “Today we stand here in Parliament Square on the doorstep of the British parliament with a message: The international community must come together to condemn this heinous act of kidnapping and holding civilians.

“This is not a matter of politics, religion or nationality. It is a matter of our shared humanity. All countries, all religions, all people must unite and simply say: ‘Bring them home!’”

London-based Michal Cohen Sagi, daughter-in-law of hostage Ada Sagi, 75, who was kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Oz, said that she and her husband, Noam Sagi, had thought that Ada had been protected in her bomb-proof room during the attacks. “Only eight hours later, when the army arrived, we then collapsed from the news that she was missing."

Holding back tears, Cohen Sagi paid tribute to the “endless support” she and her husband Noam had received from the UK’s Israeli and Jewish communities. “All of you – our huge London community – I want to thank you on behalf of my family […]and I am sure I can speak on behalf of all of us, the 241 hostages’ families. You are what keeps us going. You are what keeps us strong […] I know that you will continue doing that until we bring them home.”

Gideon Falter, CEO of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, said that while there were over 240 people “in the hands of these barbarians”, the world was “divided in two."

He added: "It is not Jews versus Hamas. It is humans versus barbarians, humanity versus barbarity. For those who embrace humanity, there is no greater priority at this moment than the return of the hostages."

Falter went on to say that “our hearts are big enough to care even for those now in Gaza who are suffering at the hands of Hamas”.

He also condemned “the hundreds of thousands of people who course through London week after week", stressing: "I do not hear any similar message of compassion for the Jews who have been murdered, for those who are held in captivity. Where is their humanity?”

To huge applause from the crowd, Falter said that the CAA would be reintroducing the billboard vans with pictures of hostages after police ordered them to be turned off just over two weeks ago when protesters ran in front of them.

Finding no billboard company prepared to rent them a van “for fear of confrontation with the police”, the CAA has now bought its own van, which “will be returning to the streets because none of us will rest until our hostages are brought home”, he said.

Also invited to speak was Iranian activist who goes by the pseudonym Lily Moo due to fears for her safety.

Giving an impassioned speech, she told the crowd that the October 7 terrorist attacks were “only antisemitic”, adding: “There is nothing, absolutely nothing humanist about this attack. The antisemitic behaviour we are witnessing in London is appalling. The celebration of terrorism we are witnessing is appalling."

Pledging solidarity with the Jewish community, Moo said: “People of Iran are on your side, [on] my side, and they are on the side of humanity and not terror.”

Hen Mazzig, Israeli author and founder of the Tel Aviv Institute, which fights online antisemitism, said that since the hostages were abducted “a day is too much. A minute is too much. I can’t walk down the street and see babies and not think of them being held in Gaza. I can’t see my nephew and not think about Ariel or three-year-old Avigail, who are held by terrorists […].”

He said the call for the release of the hostages was “not about politics. It doesn’t matter where you stand on any issue. It’s about humanity and it’s about telling the world that they have to speak up, and they have to demand that we will get our families back.”

Having just returned from Israel, where he had been meeting survivors of the attacks and relatives of victims and hostages, former UJIA chair David Cohen said that a “miracle” which had emerged following the atrocities was that “civil society has been galvanised despite all the recent contention. It has mobilised thousands of people to help evacuees, hostage families and others.”

The 241 hostages come from over 25 countries. So far, only five have been either released or rescued.

The event at Parliament Square was organised by a group of Israelis based in London. They asked that rally-goers tagged @kidnappedfromisrael when posting any photos from the event on social media.

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