IDF reservists, families of hostages hold cross-country march ‘Until Victory’

“They sent us into battle and we expect that part of Gaza will remain under Israeli control indefinitely.”

By Amelie Botbol | | Topics: Gaza, Hamas
Illustration. While some have joined the call for a ceasefire, most Israelis still demand victory over Hamas. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90
Illustration. While some have joined the call for a ceasefire, most Israelis still demand victory over Hamas. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90

Reservist soldiers and families of hostages held in Gaza are in the midst of a five-day cross-country march, titled “Victory March: Keep Going Until IDF Victory.”

They began walking on Sunday at Kibbutz Zikim, outside the northern Gaza Strip; the march will culminate on Thursday at a rally in Jerusalem.

“After Hamas killed 1,500 people, they must pay a heavy price and in our opinion areas that have already been conquered should not be given back,” Gilad Ach, one of the organizers of the march, told JNS.

“For 20 years, we have been engaging in wars without defeating Hamas. We entered the Gaza Strip, lost friends and family members, went out and then allowed Hamas to rebuild and become stronger,” said Ach, the CEO of the Ad Kan (“It Stops Now”) organization, founded in 2015 by a group of IDF security personnel to fight anti-Israel bias.

The march is organized by Reservists Until Victory (Mahal HaMiluimnikim), which was founded by reserve soldiers released after serving in the Gaza Strip and at Israel’s northern border with Lebanon since Oct. 7.

“If Israel retains all of northern Gaza as a military zone, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen will understand that people who kill Jews because they are Jews will pay a high price,” Ach said.

“In Jerusalem, we expect 50,000 people and I hope our government will listen to the voices of its soldiers. They sent us into battle and we expect that part of Gaza will remain under Israeli control indefinitely,” he added.

Speakers will include senior reserve officers who recently returned from the battlefield, relatives of hostages, rabbis and activists.

Permanent protest camps will be set up near the Knesset in Jerusalem, near the Kirya government complex in Tel Aviv and at “Nova Park,” site of the music festival where Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad murdered 364 people on Oct. 7. The organizers also plan to lobby elected officials and launch an international media campaign to support the Gaza war.

“We decided to organize the march two weeks ago. The movement itself was established about a month ago when reserve soldiers started being released from the front,” said Matan Wiesel, a member of Reservists Until Victory.

“There is talk of ending the war, establishing a Palestinian state. We hope that the country’s leadership will come to its senses and understand that the State of Israel must not end this war as if it were just another round of fighting. If we don’t seize and control significant enemy territory, we will convey the message to the region that the State of Israel is deterred and weak,” added Wiesel.

In a message released ahead of the rally, Reservists Until Victory explained: “During their service, soldiers experienced great frustration at concessions that undermined military achievements. We are returning to a strategy that could lead to further Hamas attacks soon.”

See also: IDF reservists angry over being pulled from Gaza battlefields

The message also included a video featuring Itzik Bunzel, the father of Sgt. Amit Bunzel, 22, a paratrooper from Shoham who was killed in action in central Gaza on Dec. 6.

Bunzel relates in the video that he found, among his son’s belongings, a notebook in which Amit wrote: “This time we must win. We must end it [the war in Gaza] with a crushing victory.”

Groups partnering with Reservists Until Victory, include the Tikva Forum, co-founded by Tzvika Mor, whose son Eitan, 23, is currently held by Hamas in Gaza and who opposes the government reaching a deal “at any price.”

“I hear people say that the government of Israel should be ready to pay any price,” Mor told JNS last week. “Did they ask the Israeli public if they are willing to sacrifice everything? Besides, where do they draw the line? Do you agree to send ammunition as well?” he asked.

Also participating are Mothers of IDF Soldiers, a coalition of women protesting against US pressure to increase the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza; and Lobby 1701, which represents evacuees from the north and calls on Washington to back a military operation to distance the Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist organization from the border with Lebanon.

Many of the participants are spearheading the ongoing protests aimed at preventing supplies from passing from Israel into Gaza.

On Thursday, hundreds of activists moved their operations to Ashdod Port, where they halted the departure of trucks destined for the Gaza Strip. The decision came after the IDF, in response to protests, declared the areas surrounding two Gaza border crossings closed military zones.

The protests have led to several arrests, including that of Yehuda Dee at the Kerem Shalom crossing on Wednesday. Dee’s mother, Lucy, and his two sisters were murdered by a Hamas terrorist in the Jordan Valley last April.

People block the entrance to Ashdod port during a protest against aid trucks entering the Gaza Strip, in Ashdod, southern Israel, February 1, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90

As the protests continued to gain steam, Israel’s Kan News public broadcaster reported that Biden administration officials have demanded Israel ensure that aid continues to flow into Gaza.

In December, Israel’s Security Cabinet approved the reopening of Kerem Shalom for the transfer of aid after intense US and international pressure. All Israeli crossings to Gaza were closed after the Oct. 7 massacre, with only Egypt’s Rafah crossing from Sinai remaining open.

Some 136 hostages remain in the Strip, although dozens of them are believed to be dead. The terrorist group abducted more than 240 people during its Oct. 7 rampage across southwestern Israel during which it murdered some 1,200 people and wounded thousands of others.