I was horrified to hear friend’s mother was among hostages – rally organiser

One of the organisers of a demonstration in central London calling for the immediate return of innocent civilians kidnapped by Hamas has told of the horror of learning her friend’s mother was abducted.

Hamas’s deadly raids on Israel on October 7 killed 1,400 people, mainly civilians, and Palestinian militants took more than 200 people hostage.

More than 300 people gathered outside the Qatari Embassy in central London on Sunday to call on the Qatari government to try and secure the release of hostages.

People at the demonstration
The protest outside the Qatari embassy (Aaron Chown/PA)

Organisers, from the Bring Them Home Now initiative, said Qatar has “positioned itself as a mediator of hostage release” and plays a “key role” in the endeavour.

Orit Eyal-Fibeesh, one of the organisers, told the PA news agency the mother of her close friend was kidnapped.

She said she and Noam Sagi moved to the UK more than 20 years ago and his 75-year-old mother, Ada Sagi, was taken hostage.

“I cannot even begin to tell you how horrible it was,” she said.

She told of how soon after the attack, she started to receive “horrific videos” of what was happening from social media sites.

“I was scared to send it to (Mr Sagi) in case she (his mother) was in one of those videos.”

She told PA there was “a lot of” blood in Ms Sagi’s flat where she was taken in Kibbutz Nir Zvi, which she said now has a population of 150, down from 400 before Hamas’s attack.

Mr Sagi has met with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as part of his bid to try to find and free his mother, Ms Eyal-Fibeesh added.

“He holds no grudge and no hate in him but he wants his mum back,” she said.

“He is beside himself with worry and concern.”

Anita Zehavi said her second cousin, Keith, and his wife, Aviva, were abducted from Kibbutz Kfar Aza and that she has not heard from them.

She told PA: “We’re not very close because of the distance but as soon as it happens it’s your family. Even if they are second cousins.

“I’ve had them in my home when they were younger.”

People at the demonstration
People hold up posters bearing the names and faces of those kidnapped (Aaron Chown/PA)

People stood together opposite the embassy in Mayfair hoisting Israeli flags and holding up posters bearing the names and faces of those kidnapped.

Throughout the demonstration, which lasted just over an hour, people could be seen crying.

A small group of police officers stood outside the embassy.

Eyal Biram, from Bring Them Home Now, told the PA news agency: “Every day that they are not home is making their release much more complicated.

“Internationally, people are forgetting about the hostages.

“That’s one of the reasons why we are here today.”

A woman crying at the demonstration
People could be seen crying (Aaron Chown/PA)

Fellow organiser, Gary Weiss, addressed the crowd: “We worry for their health, their survival, and long to see them reunited with their families.

“On October 7, they were abducted from their homes in an act of immeasurable violence.”

He continued: “This was not an act of liberation, nor a fight for freedom. It is morally corrupt. It is pure distilled cruelty. It is a pogrom.

“Holding hostages serves no purpose. Instead, releasing the hostages is the first step on the path to peace.”

He added: “Each minute, each second that goes by is an eternity for the abducted, for their families.

“We are reaching out for help. We are reaching out to world leaders, to the Parliament to use whatever means they have at their disposal to bring the hostages home.”

The crowd chanted “bring them home” for over four minutes at the end of Mr Weiss’ speech.

A spokesperson for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development office has said: “Our top priority remains the release of hostages and safety of British nationals in Gaza, and for humanitarian aid to get through.”

A Qatari diplomat from the embassy in London said: “Qatar has been working tirelessly since the start of the escalation in Gaza to secure the release of innocent civilian hostages and end the suffering on all sides.

“As a mediator capable of engaging with all sides in the conflict, we are using all available communication channels to try to find a breakthrough that will return the remaining civilians to their families as soon as possible.

“We share the same wishes as the protesters in seeing all civilian hostages released and reunited with their loved ones. From day one, our goal has been to de-escalate the crisis and protect innocent lives.

“Qatar seeks peace and stability in our region. In today’s polarised world, dialogue is needed now more than ever, making it vital to promote peaceful mediation as the only means of resolving disputes.”