The demonstration signals growing anger over the fate of the hostages in the fourth month of the Gaza war.
Relatives of Israelis being held hostage in Gaza by Hamas have stormed a parliamentary committee session in Jerusalem, demanding lawmakers do more to free their loved ones.
The action by a group of around 20 relatives on Monday illustrated the growing anger over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to agree to a deal with the Palestinian group as the Gaza war grinds through a fourth month.
One woman held up pictures of three family members who were among the 253 people seized in the cross-border Hamas rampage of October 7 that triggered the massive Israeli operation in the enclave.
Around 100 of the hostages were released during a week-long truce in November. Some 130 remain held in Gaza.
“Just one I’d like to get back alive, one out of three!” the woman protester cried after pushing into the Knesset Finance Committee discussion.
Other protesters, clad in black T-shirts, held up signs reading: “You will not sit here while they die there.”
“Release them now, now, now!” they chanted.
US, Qatari and Egyptian efforts at mediation seem far from reconciling the two sides. Netanyahu has insisted that Israel will continue its campaign until Hamas is destroyed. The Palestinian group demands that Israel withdraw and free all of the thousands of Palestinians from its prisons for Israeli captives to be released.
The fate of the hostages – 27 of whom Tel Aviv says have died in captivity – has riveted Israel.
However, the relatives fear that war fatigue could soften that focus. Demonstrations that initially promoted national unity have become more aggressive.
Parliament ushers, often quick to eject hecklers or protesters, stood by during the ruckus in the Knesset Finance Committee. One lawmaker covered her face with her hands.
Panel chairman Moshe Gafni, head of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish party in Netanyahu’s coalition, stood up, called a halt to the economic briefing under way and sought to calm the protester.
“Redeeming captives is the most important precept in Judaism, especially in this case, where there is an urgency to preserving life,” he said, but added: “Quitting the coalition would not achieve anything.”
The anger of the families has not been confined to official buildings. Relatives and supporters of the hostages once again rallied near Netanyahu’s residence in West Jerusalem on Sunday night.
“We are asking our government to listen, to sit down at the negotiating table and decide whether to accept this agreement or any other that would suit Israel,” said Gilad Korenbloom, whose son is a hostage in Gaza.
Jon Polin, father of a hostage, said Israelis serve their country and in return “we expect the government to ensure our safety”.
“We are asking the government to play its part, to propose an agreement, to bring it to a successful conclusion and to bring the remaining hostages back alive,” Polin said.
Demonstrators have also been camping outside Netanyahu’s coastal home as well as the Knesset building, some demanding a unilateral end to the war or an election that might topple the hard-right government.
On Sunday, Netanyahu rejected conditions presented by Hamas to end the war and release hostages that would include Israel’s complete withdrawal and leaving Hamas in power in Gaza.
Following that, the Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum demanded that Netanyahu “clearly state that we will not abandon civilians, soldiers, and others kidnapped in the October debacle”.
“If the prime minister decides to sacrifice the hostages, he should show leadership and honestly share his position with the Israeli public,” it said in a statement.