'Bring them home': Hundreds of balloons released in London for each Hamas hostage as families demand safe return

27 October 2023, 15:33

More than 200 balloons were released in London for the Israeli hostages
More than 200 balloons were released in London for the Israeli hostages. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Hundreds of balloons have been released in London for the hostages kidnapped from Israel by Hamas.

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A total of 223 blue and white balloons - one for each man, woman and child seized by militants in the October 7 massacre - were set off at Tower Bridge. The exact figure of hostages has been repeatedly updated.

London was joined in the release by cities across the world, including New York, Paris and Melbourne, where people showed solidarity with Israel and the missing.

Hundreds of people arrived at the capital's landmark, including Noam Sagi, whose 85-year-old mother is among the hostages.

They chanted 'bring them home' as the balloons were released over the Thames.

Read more: Israel launches second night raid on Gaza with tanks, drones and helicopters ahead of ground invasion

The display was arranged by the Israeli embassy alongside the Jewish News and Women United for peace.

Earlier on Friday, the Jewish Community Centre in North London laid an empty Shabbat table, with chairs displaying a missing hostage.

Raymond Simonson, the centre's chief executive, said: "These are people, they are not just numbers. We urge you today to walk around the table, and look at the faces and names.

"It's only when you look at it like this do you realise how many people it truly is."

Balloons released for Israel hostages

Noam told the Jewish News: "No one is in the middle of this psychological warfare more than the families. Every day is worse. This is what it is designed to do."

Posters of the missing have been displayed throughout London but some have been defaced amid surging anti-Semitic incidents in the capital.

Hamas has claimed it needs time to track down everyone who was taken by Palestinian groups that rampaged through Israel earlier this month, causing 1,400 deaths.

It was the worst loss of Jewish life since the Holocaust.

Read more: British-Israeli soldier threw back seven Hamas grenades defending festival-goers, before one blew up in his hand

A number of the hostages are dual nationals. It is hoped negotiations through Qatar and Egypt could see their release, with four people having been let out.

Yocheved Lifshitz, an 85-year-old woman, said she "went through hell" as she spoke after her release.

"Many people stormed our homes, they beat people, some of them they abducted, like me. It made no difference, they abducted the elderly and the young," she said.

Balloons have been released around the world, including in Warsaw
Balloons have been released around the world, including in Warsaw. Picture: Alamy

Israel is yet to launch a ground invasion amid concerns for the humanitarian situation in Gaza, which has been pummelled since the massacre. More than 7,000 there are said to have died.

Israel has called up hundred of reservists which are massed outside the strip and at the northern border with Lebanon, where it is feared the powerful Hezbollah group could join the war.

Troops and tanks launched another ground raid into northern Gaza last night, striking several Hamas targets in order to "prepare the battlefield" ahead of a widely expected ground invasion.

The latest raid came after the UN warned it is on the verge of running out of fuel in the Gaza Strip.

Tanks backed by fighter jets, helicopters and drones crossed over the border, wiping out Hamas targets and infrastructure, the Israeli Defence Forces said.

The raid took place near the Shuja'iyya neighborhood.

The IDF said it had previously launched limited forays into Gaza to try and secure hostages.

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