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Protesters demand release of hostages in pro-Israel rally on Strip

Several hundred people, many of them waving Israeli flags, gathered on Las Vegas Boulevard on Sunday night to demand one thing: that the hostages taken by Hamas during the Oct. 7 surprise attack on Israel are brought home safe.

The “Bring Them Home Now!” rally, organized by the Israeli American Council, took place outside the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. A row of about 30 empty strollers representing some of the children who were taken hostage lined the sidewalk.

“We actually gather here today with the statement, ‘Bring them home safe!’ ” said Ofra Etzion, the council’s regional director, Las Vegas.

“We are demanding to bring them back home right now,” Etzion said. “With no conditions.”

Sam Shapiro and his wife, Marjie, both 62-year-old Las Vegas residents, attended as a show of support for Israel.

“It’s a tough situation, it’s very difficult,” Sam Shapiro said of Hamas holding hostages.

“It’s really easy as days, weeks go by that it just diminishes from people’s thoughts,” said Marjie Shapiro. “And I’m here to say: Don’t turn away.”

“As far as bringing the hostages home, I think the Netanyahu government will figure that out. And however they do it, I’m fine with that,” said Bill Sacco, 60, a Las Vegas resident. “I want to see them returned. I want to see peace in the Middle East. But I know as long as there are entities like Hamas or Hezbollah in the area, there will never be peace.”

The Las Vegas Strip protest comes amid the intensifying situation in Gaza, where Israeli airstrikes continue as more ground forces move into the Hamas-controlled territory. Israel has vowed to eradicate Hamas after the terrorist group’s attack left more than 1,400 people dead, mostly civilians, and led to the taking of the hostages.

About 230 hostages are held by Hamas, which has said it will release them in exchange for all of the thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. Israel has rejected the offer.

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, which is part of the Hamas-controlled government, the Palestinian death toll has passed 8,000, The Associated Press reported.

According to AP, family members of the hostages met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday and indicated their support for an exchange of prisoners for hostages.

“If you are going to trade for hostages, how do you prevent this from happening again — until you wipe out Hamas?” Marjie Shapiro said. “And then, can you really trust Hamas?”

“The whole exchange thing, that has been brought about, of exchanging thousands of terrorists for the life of one Jew, I think is wrong,” said Dafna Noury, of Las Vegas, who brought her four teenage children to the rally.

Netanyahu, who announced a “second stage” in the war on Saturday, has said Israel is determined to bring the hostages home.

Contact Brett Clarkson at bclarkson@reviewjournal.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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