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The artist heading the Israeli pavilion at the Venice Biennale says she won’t open it until a hostage deal is reached and Gaza ceasefire is reached

Israel’s representative at the Venice Biennale has said she will not unveil the country’s pavilion until a hostage and ceasefire agreement is reached in Gaza.

Artist Ruth Patir said the exhibition in the Italian city “will only open if the release of hostages and a ceasefire agreement takes place” in a statement shared on Instagram on Tuesday.

Patir said she would raise her voice “with those I stand with in their cry, ceasefire now, bring the people back from captivity. We can’t handle it anymore.”

The Venice Biennale, an eight-month international festival of arts and culture, is held every two years, showcasing some of the world’s most prominent creatives in one place.

Each year an artistic director is appointed to curate the central exhibition, which in many ways sets the tone for the entire festival.

A petition signed by more than 23,000 people recently called for Israel to be excluded from the international cultural exhibition, as calls for a ceasefire and an independent Palestinian state have grown.

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Israel launched its military offensive in Gaza on October 7 after the militant group Hamas, which rules the strip, killed at least 1,200 people and kidnapped more than 250 others.

Since then, Israeli strikes in Gaza have killed at least 33,797 Palestinians and injured another 76,465, according to the Health Ministry. Human Rights Watch and Oxfam have accused Israel of carrying out “indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks in violation of international law” and imposing collective punishment on the civilian population.

Patir said Tuesday that she and commissioners Mira Lapidot and Tamar Margalit had become headlines in recent weeks rather than the art and exhibition titled “(M)otherland.” “When I am given such a remarkable platform, I want to make it count,” Patir said, adding that she “strongly objected” to the cultural boycott but chose to take action because she felt there was “no correct answer.”

Italian soldiers patrol the Israeli National Pavilion at the Contemporary Art Biennale in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. - Colleen Barry/AP

Italian soldiers patrol the Israeli National Pavilion at the Contemporary Art Biennale in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. – Colleen Barry/AP

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