Thousands Protest in Israel Demanding Netanyahu's Resignation and Deal to Free Hostages

Thousands of Israelis protest, demanding Netanyahu's resignation, early elections, and a deal to free hostages held by Hamas after 7-month Gaza war.

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Bijay Laxmi
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Thousands Protest in Israel Demanding Netanyahu's Resignation and Deal to Free Hostages

Thousands Protest in Israel Demanding Netanyahu's Resignation and Deal to Free Hostages

Thousands of Israelis took to the streets in Tel Aviv and other cities on Sunday, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, immediate elections, and a deal with Gaza resistance factions to free Israeli prisoners. The largest protest was held on Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv, where demonstrators called for new elections amid growing anger over the government's handling of the 133 Israeli hostages still held by Hamas after seven months of war in Gaza.

Families of the hostages held separate demonstrations outside the Kirya military headquarters and at Hostage Square near the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. They accused Netanyahu of abandoning the captives and demanded a prisoner exchange deal with Hamas to secure their release. Surveys indicate that most Israelis blame Netanyahu for the security failures that led to the devastating attack by Hamas fighters on southern Israel on October 7, 2023.

Why this matters: The ongoing protests and calls for Netanyahu's resignation and early elections underscore the deep political divisions in Israel and the public's dissatisfaction with the government's approach to the Gaza conflict. The fate of the Israeli hostages has become a major point of contention, with their families accusing Netanyahu of not doing enough to bring them home.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid and former Chief of Staff Dan Halutz addressed rallies in Haifa, criticizing the government and calling for immediate elections. "Netanyahu is not interested in returning the hostages from Gaza," Lapid said. The protesters accused the government of failing to reach an agreement with Palestinian factions in Gaza to end the hostilities and secure the release of the captives.

Israel's seven-month onslaught on Gaza has resulted in the deaths of at least 34,049 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and the displacement of 85% of the population. Hamas has demanded an end to the Israeli offensive, the withdrawal of the Israeli army, the return of displaced residents, and the entry of aid into the enclave. The call for a deal to free the hostages also comes amid growing U.S. disapproval of Israel's actions in the conflict, particularly after the killing of aid workers from World Central Kitchen in an Israeli airstrike.

Netanyahu has repeatedly ruled out early elections, which opinion polls suggest he would lose, saying that going to the polls in the middle of a war would only reward Hamas. However, efforts to secure another deal to free the remaining hostages appear to have stalled, and relatives of the captives feel that time is running out. "The weight of what is happening is weighing more and more on my shoulders and my hope is diminishing," said one mother of a hostage.

Key Takeaways

  • Thousands of Israelis protest, demand Netanyahu's resignation and early elections.
  • Families of Israeli hostages held by Hamas accuse Netanyahu of abandoning captives.
  • Israel's 7-month Gaza offensive killed 34,049 Palestinians, displaced 85% of population.
  • Opposition leaders criticize government's handling of Gaza conflict and hostage crisis.
  • Netanyahu refuses early elections, but efforts to free hostages appear stalled.