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WORLD | 23-10-2023 16:18

Paris poster activists aim to keep Hamas's hostages in public eye

In cities across the globe, activists are plastering the walls with headshots of Israelis and others who were kidnapped by Hamas on October 7, in a bid to keep their fate in the public eye.

Under cover of darkness in the western districts of Paris, activists armed with buckets of glue and thousands of posters get to work.

They're spending their Sunday night plastering the walls with headshots of Israelis and others who were kidnapped by Hamas on October 7, in a bid to keep their fate in the public eye.

"We can never shout it enough, never say it enough, never show their faces enough," said Lea Hanoune of the Union of Jewish Students of France (UEJF).

The poster campaign is an offshoot of a similar one launched in New York by Israeli artists, which has since spread to Buenos Aires, Lisbon and other cities across the world.

Militants from the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamist group Hamas poured into Israel from the Gaza Strip on October 7, killing more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and taking more than 200 hostages, according to Israeli officials.

Gaza's Hamas-run Health Ministry said on Monday that more than 5,000 people, also mainly civilians, have been killed in Israel's retaliatory bombardment of the Palestinian territory. Its death toll includes more than 2,000 children.

The hostage issue is particularly impactful in France, which has Europe's largest Jewish population of around 500,000.

The UEJF said on Sunday alone they had around 100 activists using 30 cars to distribute some 4,000 posters.

"Often on social media, we see a lot of hate, a lot of disinformation," said Hanoune. 

"That's another reason we're doing this, to fight against disinformation."

The UEJF group is coordinating the action along with a group calling itself the October 7 Collective.

"The aim is to raise awareness among the general public, to give a face to the hostages, to bring them to life," said Sophie Kijner, a member of the collective.

On Sunday night in Paris, there were students, activists, young professionals and older people motivated by what some of them said was a feeling of duty.

The posters are emblazoned with the word "kidnapped" along with photos and the names and nationalities of the hostages, who come from nations including Israel, France, Argentina and the United States.

"They must come back alive," read the posters.

The poster campaigns in other cities have already sparked controversy with some of the posters being ripped down.

The collective says it is not political but some of the posters label Hamas as "terrorists" and call the group the enemy of both Israel and the Palestinians.

"The Palestinians, too, are under the yoke of Hamas," said Sarah Ouakil of UEJF. 

"We won't reach a peace solution if a terrorist group controls the land in Palestine."

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