Families of Israeli hostages hold London rally to call for their release from Gaza

Former UK military commander addresses hundreds at event to mark six months since start of war

Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest on Israel-Gaza

The families of hostages taken during the October 7 attack on Israel joined a rally at a London synagogue on Sunday to call for their release, saying the past six months had been "hell”.

Hundreds of people gathered for the event at St John's Wood United Synagogue, where speakers included Col Richard Kemp, former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan, actress Maureen Lipman and influencer Oli London.

The rally on marked six months since Hamas’s raid on Israel that killed 1,200 people and led to about 250 people being taken hostage. Israel’s retaliatory strikes have killed more than 33,100 Palestinians, the Gaza health authorities said.

Those who attended the rally on Sunday raised images of hostages and waved Israeli flags. Michel Nisenbaum, 59, was taken by Hamas in Sderot as he was on his way to pick up his granddaughter to take her to her mother.

His daughter tried calling him when she saw videos of the attack and a militant answered his phone. His family have heard from Mr Nisenbaum since he was taken, his niece, Ayala Harel, told PA.

“He went out, about five minutes later his daughter saw the video of the terrorists inside Sderot, and she was trying to call Michel and he didn’t answer the phone," she said.

“And then she realised that something is happening if he’s not picking up the phone.

“She was trying to call him again and again, and 15 minutes later Hamas picked up his phone and just shout on the phone, ‘Hamas, Hamas, we’re here, we came from Gaza to Israel.'

“His daughter was panicking and she hung up the phone. And that was the last time that we heard something.”

Anti-Netanyahu protests in Jerusalem - in pictures

Two weeks later, the family were informed that Mr Nisenbaum's car was found burnt on the road, but no body was found, she added.

Ms Harel said the past six months had been “hell” for her family.

“I can’t go back to my life, I live in the south of Israel. So I was there on October 7. I’m a survivor myself and I can’t go back to my house yet,” she said.

“And since then, we don’t live. I’m just dealing with this, with the hostages. I just want them back. It’s been six months, it’s not normal."

The families of hostages Omer Wenker and Shlomi Ziv recorded messages that were played at the rally. Mr Wenker’s father, Shai Wenker, said his son was at the Nova music festival when he was kidnapped by Hamas fighters.

“He was brutally kidnapped. We saw a video of Omer on October 7 [showing] that he was kidnapped by Hamas," he said.

“We have evidence from the released hostages that he’s still alive, not in good shape. And we know he doesn’t get any medicine and we are very worried about him."

Mr Ziv’s sister, Revital Azulay, said he was also taken from the music festival, where he was working as security staff. The families of hostages “cannot go on with our lives without them”, she added.

“It has been six months since I’ve heard my brother’s voice," she said. “On the morning of October 7, I called him, he answered while he was running from the terrorists and told me, 'I will call you back.' I’m still waiting.

“My life has stopped. All I do is fight for my brothers and sisters. We must bring them all home. We cannot go on with our lives without them.”

The Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has faced pressure to secure the release of those who continue to be held in the enclave.

Lipman urged the world to remember those who were taken hostage on the October 7 attack. "We cannot allow people to forget or to belittle their plight and move on with the rest of the world to tastier sound bites," she said.

Col Kemp described the rally as “incredibly important” and said he spent much of the past six months in Israel.

“They see what goes on in this country and other countries across the world and they have enormous appreciation for the solidarity that you show in events like this," he said.

Updated: April 07, 2024, 10:09 PM