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President Herzog urges release of Israeli hostages on solidarity trip commemorating 30 years since the Rwanda genocide

Herzog is first top Israeli official to visit Africa since Hamas massacre on Oct. 7

Israeli President Isaac Herzog participates in a special wreath-laying ceremony at the central monument and attends the main state ceremony marking 30 years since the genocide in Rwanda against the Tutsi people, April 7, 2024. (Photo: Ma'ayan Toaf/GPO)

Israeli President Isaac Herzog arrived in Rwanda on Sunday to attend the 30th anniversary of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, a solemn occasion remembering the tragic slaughter of approximately 800,000 people from the Tutsi minority by extremists from the Hutu majority. Herzog is the first top Israeli official to visit Africa since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas War on Oct. 7.

Beyond paying his respects to the victims, Herzog's visit also serves a diplomatic purpose as he will advocate for the release of the approximately 130 Israeli hostages still held by Hamas terrorists after six months of conflict in Gaza.

“The president will participate in the ceremony alongside dozens of international leaders,” Herzog’s office in Jerusalem stated ahead of the visit, adding that “he will hold diplomatic meetings emphasizing the urgent need to secure the release of the hostages held by Hamas for six months, including women, children, and the elderly.”

The presidential office underscored that Herzog would “highlight the necessity of the joint fight against terrorism worldwide.”

Herzog was invited to the central African nation by Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who hosted him in the capital Kigali. During their meeting, the Israeli president presented Kagame with a necklace that symbolizes a call for the release of the hostages.

“This is for the release of the hostages, for which we all pray and want them back as soon as possible. It says ‘my heart is in Gaza’,” Herzog told him.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who was in Rwanda, said the genocide there was one of the greatest regrets of his presidency.

The president of the European Council, Charles Michel who also attended the ceremony in Rwanda, publicly condemned the Hamas Oct. 7 massacre and demanded the immediate release of Israeli and international hostages.

Herzog made the following statement at the Rwandan ceremony: “I stood today with leaders from around the world to honour the memory of the victims of the genocide of the Tutsi people in Rwanda.”  

He emphasized that the Jewish people have experienced the threat of genocide and annihilation throughout history.

“The Jewish people know all too well what it means to be threatened with annihilation. We know all too well what it means to be the victims of genocide, terror, and hatred against our people. Even today, as we are erroneously and falsely accused with modern blood libels, we remain the target of a vicious and evil regime in Tehran, with its proxies across the region, whose stated aim is the destruction of the Jewish nation.
We must all stand together in the promise, Never Again,” Herzog vowed during his speech.

Rwanda and Israel enjoy close bilateral ties. In 2019, Israel opened an embassy in Rwanda and has supported the African nation in various sectors, such as cybersecurity, agriculture, health, and education.

In January, the Rwanda Embassy and several other embassies in Israel attended a special Knesset event called: “Gaza: Vision for the Day After The War.”

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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