Families of hostages taken by Hamas gather in New York to pressure the UN

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NEW YORK – In Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, just steps away from the United Nations headquarters, pro-Israel demonstrators on Tuesday laid out some 200 pairs of shoes – one for each person held hostage by Hamas.

They were rallying for greater action on securing the release of more than 200 hostages taken by Hamas on Oct 7.

That was the day the militant group launched an attack on southern Israel, in which more than 1,400 people were killed.

Israel has since retaliated with aerial bombardments on the Gaza Strip and killed more than 5,700 people.

“We’re not satisfied knowing that it’s been 17 days and nothing seems to be moving,” said Mrs Orna Neutra, whose son Omer is being held in Gaza. “This is a world crisis; it’s not just our personal crisis. There were at least 33 citizens of different countries in the world. Where are they? Everyone needs to speak up.”

Omer’s father Ronen said his family had no idea where Omer was or what condition he might be in.

Mr Omer Neutra was serving as a soldier in the Israeli military on the border with Gaza when he was abducted, but he grew up in New York.

“We are calling all the international world countries to unite and work together in helping those innocent people, the innocent families, and bring them back,” Mr Ronen Neutra said.

Ms Alana Zeitchik, whose six family members were kidnapped, said her goal was to share her family’s story and keep the spotlight on the missing.

Ms Zeitchik’s cousin Sharon Cunio, Sharon’s husband David and their three-year-old twin daughters Emma and Julia were believed to have been abducted, as were Ms Zeitchik’s cousin Danielle Alony and Danielle’s five-year-old daughter Amelia.

“The world is very divided, but I’m not an expert on that,” Ms Zeitchik said. “I’m an expert on loving my family. Everyone should understand what that feels like, to love your family so much. And I want our families home.”

Ambassadors from around the world are gathered at the UN to discuss the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Tensions ran high during Tuesday’s rally when Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Eli Cohen went to speak after meeting with the UN Security Council.

As Mr Cohen began to address the crowd, a faction repeatedly yelled, “Disgrace!” and shouted over him as he called for unity.

“Where were you?” one man shouted.

Their anger reflected the sense of betrayal many Israelis felt towards their own government following Oct 7.

Another remark that had riled the crowd was made earlier in the day by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

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