Rallies throughout Europe call for release of Hamas hostages held for 100 days

Protesters in London, Berlin and Paris have called for captives in Gaza to be freed

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Thousands of pro-Israel protesters gathered in London, Paris and Berlin on Sunday to call for the release of hostages held by Hamas for 100 days.

Several thousand people turned London's Trafalgar Square into a sea of Israeli flags and yellow balloons, symbolising the 132 hostages who remain captive after being kidnapped on October 7.

The Hamas attacks triggered the Israeli military campaign in Gaza that has killed more than 23,000 people.

Some supporters held placards reading "stand with Israel" and "never again is now", while guest speakers on a stage led the crowd in chants of "bring them home".

The event was marked by a heavy police presence and tight security, with bag checks and body searches.

"I'm here to support Israel, to support our community and our people," Arthur Goldberg, 56, from north London, told AFP.

"You have to have empathy with an ordinary Gazan citizen, they are going through a nightmare. However, there are 150 hostages that are being detained."

"There are consequences to how governments behave, and they voted for that government."

100 days of Israel Gaza war - in pictures

The Hamas attack resulted in about 1,140 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.

The fighters also abducted around 250 people from southern Israeli communities and a music festival, although dozens were released for Palestinian prisoners in a swap in late November.

Israel has since bombarded Gaza, killing at least 23,968 people in the Palestinian territory, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

Ursula Conlong, 59, travelled for six hours from North Wales for the event.

"I support Israel. The people that support Israel in England, we know each other, there's a network," said the former volunteer teacher.

"Israel is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

"What's interesting about this event is how we are scrutinised coming in... but the other marches around the world, pro-Palestinian, there isn't this security. Israel supporters aren't trying to kill Palestinian supporters," she added.

Several hundred people also marched through the streets of Berlin on Sunday, waving Israeli flags and demanding the "immediate" release of the hostages.

Marchers carried signs reading "100 days in hell" and "bring the hostages home now".

Others held up placards criticising the Israeli government for "betraying the hostages" and calling for "an immediate ceasefire".

In Paris, a series of events took place at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

"The French nation is determined that... all the hostages of the terrorist attacks of October 7 should be freed," French President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday.

Earlier in London, about 250 cyclists completed a 7.2-kilometre ride inside Regents Park to draw attention to those detained.

"I'm hoping to remind the world of the existence of the hostages, still unfortunately living where they are living in Gaza under the conditions they are living in, which is inhumane," said accountant David Landau, 57.

"The Pakistanis have thrown the Afghans back into Afghanistan and the Chinese are doing what they are doing to the Uighur Muslims, but apparently the world is focused on one thing and one thing alone, which is hypocrisy and anti-Semitism," he added.

Updated: January 15, 2024, 6:27 AM