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World News

UK among nations calling for release of hostages as hundreds arrested at pro-Palestinian student protests in US

by Donna Birrell

The UK and 17 other nations have issued a joint statement calling for the release of all the hostages being held in Gaza. More than 250 were taken by Hamas militants on October 7th and it's unclear how many are still alive.

But anti-Israeli sentiment is continuing to grow, with student protests against the war in Gaza spreading across the United States. There have been almost 550 arrests at major universities in the past week.

The demonstrators want their colleges to cut ties with companies helping Israel - and in some cases, with Israel itself.

Paul Calvert, who is a Christian journalist based in Bethlehem gave Premier his reaction:

“I'm quite shocked that so many people are supporting Hamas, which is a terrorist organisation. It’s all very well standing up for an underdog, but I don’t think people understand the complexity of what is going on in the Holy Land.

“It’s a bit reminiscent of 1930s Germany and I’m sure anyone who's living outside of Israel at the moment is feeling very, very worried and very, very scared.”

As well as the UK, the joint statement on the hostages was issued by the leaders of Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Thailand and the United States. It said: “We call for the immediate release of all hostages held by Hamas in Gaza for over 200 days. They include our own citizens.  The fate of the hostages and the civilian population in Gaza, who are protected under international law, is of international concern.

“We emphasize that the deal on the table to release the hostages would bring an immediate and prolonged ceasefire in Gaza, that would facilitate a surge of additional necessary humanitarian assistance to be delivered throughout Gaza, and lead to the credible end of hostilities. Gazans would be able to return to their homes and their lands with preparations beforehand to ensure shelter and humanitarian provisions.

“We strongly support the ongoing mediation efforts in order to bring our people home.  We reiterate our call on Hamas to release the hostages, and let us end this crisis so that collectively we can focus our efforts on bringing peace and stability to the region.”

Paul Calvert believes the statement is a significant moment: “I think it's very, very important indeed, because it does ratify the fact that the nations of the world have actually got people as hostages, not just Israelis that are hostages, but it's from people from all around the world. Having a letter like this does actually put a lot of support on Israel and its hostages. It also reminds us well, that there are still hostages in there, because we're hearing a lot about what Israel is doing in Gaza, but we're not always reminded about the hostages. So we need to be praying that negotiations would be really successful. We need to pray that they put a deal together so hopefully we can see more hostages taken out via that route rather than through fighting.

“We really do need to be praying for both sides, because it is a war. We need to be praying that God would be with the people and protect the people. We need to pray that God would protect the Christian community that are in the churches in Gaza, because I think the Christians feel they're right in the middle of this war and they need our help. And the most important thing that we can do is pray for them.”

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