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Demonstrators in Tel Aviv standing against Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and calling for the release of hostages kidnapped in the deadly October 7 light fires and gag themselves in protest

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Demonstrators against Benjamin Netanyahu‘s government gathered in Tel Aviv to call for the release of hostages kidnapped in the deadly October 7 attacks.

Thousands of protestors lit fires and gagged themselves in objection to the government’s failure to retrieve the hostages.

Pictures taken on Saturday night show thousands of people taking to Kaplan Street in the city, the site of weekly anti-government protests.

Some held placards putting the blame for the hostages’ fate on Netanyahu, with pictures of his face next to the text: ‘UR the boss, UR to blame.’

Hamas militants seized about 250 hostages on October 7, of whom Israel believes 130 remain in Gaza, including 33 who are presumed dead. 

Protestors lit fires and gagged themselves in objection to the government's failure to retrieve the hostages

Protestors lit fires and gagged themselves in objection to the government’s failure to retrieve the hostages

Family members and supporters of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, carrying signs and Israeli flags, lit a bonfire during a rally outside the Kirya military headquarters

Family members and supporters of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, carrying signs and Israeli flags, lit a bonfire during a rally outside the Kirya military headquarters

Hamas militants seized about 250 hostages on October 7, of whom Israel believes 130 remain in Gaza , including 33 who are presumed dead

Hamas militants seized about 250 hostages on October 7, of whom Israel believes 130 remain in Gaza , including 33 who are presumed dead 

Police accused the anti-government protesters of being ‘rioters’ and said the demonstration was illegal.

There have been several clashes between police and protestors as the officers blocked Begin Road in Tel Aviv while protestors lit bonfires outside the Kirya military headquarters.

The police said they have arrested 16 people so far in Tel Aviv.

Chants of ‘shame’ could be heard by some protestors as the police tried to move them away from the bonfires. 

It comes as families of Israeli hostages held in Gaza called for a mass rally in front of parliament next week as thousands gathered to support them in Tel Aviv Saturday.

Shira Elbag, whose 19-year-old daughter Liri was abducted by Hamas militants during the October 7 attack on Israel, made an emotional plea urging Israelis to pile the pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

‘The time has come to go out and fight against indifference and for life,’ she said.

Some held placards putting the blame for the hostages' fate on Netanyahu

Some held placards putting the blame for the hostages’ fate on Netanyahu

One placard had pictures of Netanyahu's face next to the text: 'UR the boss, UR to blame'

One placard had pictures of Netanyahu’s face next to the text: ‘UR the boss, UR to blame’

The weekly demonstration on the Tel Aviv plaza renamed by campaigners Hostages Square came as anti-government protesters also gathered nearby outside the Ministry of Defence

The weekly demonstration on the Tel Aviv plaza renamed by campaigners Hostages Square came as anti-government protesters also gathered nearby outside the Ministry of Defence

A protester carries a menorah during a gathering by relatives of Israeli hostages

A protester carries a menorah during a gathering by relatives of Israeli hostages

A demonstrator gestures during a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government

A demonstrator gestures during a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government

Demonstrators wearing gags and with their hands loosely bound

Demonstrators wearing gags and with their hands loosely bound

Thousands gathered to make their voices heard as part of Israeli democracy

Thousands gathered to make their voices heard as part of Israeli democracy

A demonstrator with a zipper over her mouth takes part in the protest

A demonstrator with a zipper over her mouth takes part in the protest

‘I now ask you to come out with us into the streets and let us sound one united and clear voice: ‘Bring them home now!”

She said they would gather outside the parliament building in Jerusalem next week.

The weekly demonstration on the Tel Aviv plaza renamed by campaigners Hostages Square came as anti-government protesters also gathered nearby outside the Ministry of Defence.

Some of those who took to the streets in support of the hostages’ families later joined the anti-government rally, an AFP photographer said.

Former hostage Raz Ben Ami, who was freed in November after a deal brokered by Qatar and Washington, appealed directly to Netanyahu to speed up talks for the release of the rest.

‘Prime minister, on behalf of the hostage men and women, on behalf of the people of Israel, give the negotiators in Qatar the order. Do not return without a deal,’ she said.

Elbag, one of the leaders of the Hostage Families Forum, which represents some of the families, added: ‘I haven’t closed an eye from the thoughts and fear of what Liri and the other hostages are going through. After 176 days, the excuses are over.’

Numerous rallies have been organised since late last year among those who feel not enough has been done to ensure the safe return of the hostages still trapped in Gaza.

Police accused the anti-government protesters of being 'rioters' and said the demonstration was illegal. Pictured: Police detain a man

Police accused the anti-government protesters of being ‘rioters’ and said the demonstration was illegal. Pictured: Police detain a man

Demonstrators young and old attended the event in Tel Aviv

Demonstrators young and old attended the event in Tel Aviv

The police said they have arrested 16 people so far in Tel Aviv

The police said they have arrested 16 people so far in Tel Aviv

Chants of 'shame' could be heard by some protestors as the police tried to move them away from the bonfires

Chants of ‘shame’ could be heard by some protestors as the police tried to move them away from the bonfires

Police officers carry a man away during the protest

Police officers carry a man away during the protest

More than 32,500 Palestinians and over 1,450 Israelis have been killed, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry and the Israel Defense Forces since October 7

More than 32,500 Palestinians and over 1,450 Israelis have been killed, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry and the Israel Defense Forces since October 7

‘If the families knew how small the gap is, which Netanyahu is refusing to close’ in negotiations with Hamas, ‘they would explode,’ said former head of the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate, Amos Malka.

‘This is more evidence of his unsuitability to serve.’

Twenty families of hostages also told the press that Netanyahu was the ‘obstacle to a deal’, claiming he was making decisions without consulting the cabinet and only serving his own interests.

Netanyahu’s popularity in Israel has fallen since the war, with critics suggesting he could be prolonging the war to stay in power.

‘Netanyahu came into the war already with low popularity ratings,’ Mairav Zonszein, the International Crisis Group’s senior Israel-Palestine analyst, told The New Arab.

‘After October 7, he lost all legitimacy and a lot of Israelis hold him responsible for what happened,’ Zonszein said. ‘People want to see Netanyahu out.’

Only 15 per cent of Israelis now want him to stay in the role once the war ends.

‘Netanyahu’s conduct is unimaginable,’ the hostage families told local media.

Protesters carry placards during the gathering

Protesters carry placards during the gathering

A woman takes part in a protest to call for the release of hostages

A woman takes part in a protest to call for the release of hostages

Family members and supporters of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, carrying signs and Israeli flags, block the Ayalon Highway during the rally

Family members and supporters of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, carrying signs and Israeli flags, block the Ayalon Highway during the rally

‘It is criminal. We have no choice. We will work to replace you immediately — this is the fastest way to secure a deal.’

The large protest on Saturday comes after a previous big demonstration in January which marked the 100th day of captivity in Gaza for the Israeli hostages. 

Following Hamas’s attack, Israel has responded with a sustained military campaign in Gaza, initially placing Gaza City under siege and attacking sites they say are Hamas-controlled with devastating aerial bombardments.

Air strikes and Israel’s ground offensive have left 32,705 Palestinians dead, local health authorities said on Saturday, with 82 killed in the past 24 hours.

The United Nations Security Council last week supported calls for a ceasefire urging that all hostages still held captive in Gaza should also be released.

Resolution 2728 is understood to be non-binding and is not expected to have an immediate impact on the ongoing conflict.

Israel is not expected to heed the call for an immediate ceasefire, and Hamas is not expected to immediately and unconditionally release the remaining 134 hostages.

Gaza is home to some 2.3million people – 1.7million of whom have been displaced by the war, according to the United Nations Population Fund.



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