Israel protests demand Netanyahu bring Hamas hostages home from Gaza

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TEL AVIV — Family members of Israeli hostages held by Hamas braved winter thunderstorms Saturday for a second night time of protests since cease-fire negotiations stalled this week, a growth that households blame on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Thousands gathered exterior Israeli army headquarters right here chanting “Now! Now! Now!” Demonstrators Thursday shut down a significant street in downtown Tel Aviv; a bunch of hostage relations handcuffed themselves collectively and blocked the gates throughout a gathering of the struggle cupboard.

Some have set off coloured smoke bombs and carried posters depicting Netanyahu’s son Yair as a hostage with the legend: “How would it be different it was him?”

On Friday, protesters fired flares within the air and demanded Netanyahu step down. Mounted police and vehicles blocked their manner. Demonstrators blame the prime minister for the safety failures resulting in the Hamas assault on Israeli communities on Oct. 7 — when authorities right here say militants killed 1,200 individuals — as effectively his dealing with of the struggle in Gaza and the hostages since.

“Netanyahu has to leave or we’ll never get the hostages home,” mentioned Karen Beltz, a Tel Aviv movie producer. She mentioned the protests had been starting to swell, however had been nonetheless not as giant or offended because the anti-government demonstrations that rocked Israel for months final yr.

Hamas and allied fighters took greater than 253 individuals hostage on Oct. 7. More than 100 had been freed in trade for greater than 200 Palestinian detainees throughout a November pause in preventing. Israeli authorities imagine that greater than 100 hostages stay in Gaza.

Advocates warn that point is operating out for the hostages, who’ve been held in Gaza for 19 weeks. They had been infuriated when Netanyahu pulled Israel’s workforce out of cease-fire negotiations in Cairo on Wednesday.

The prime minister mentioned additional talks had been pointless till Hamas dropped “delusional demands” that Israel withdraw from Gaza and free hundreds of detained Palestinians as a part of any hostage deal.

Israeli protesters block assist shipments to Gaza

The Cairo assembly, reportedly attended by Mossad head David Barnea, CIA Director William J. Burns and senior Hamas leaders from exterior of Gaza, adopted studies of progress in Paris talks. Hope rose among the many households of the remaining hostages, a few of whom are aged or injured.

Israel estimates that greater than two dozen hostages might have died. Officials have made the return of their stays a part of the negotiations.

Netanyahu, below strain from right-wing members of his slim governing majority to maintain up the Gaza offensive, ordered his workforce out of Egypt in defiance of not solely the calls for of the hostage households however the rising worldwide outrage over the hovering civilian dying toll in Gaza. In three months of struggle, greater than 28,000 Gazans have been killed, in response to the Gaza Health Ministry.

Diplomats mentioned the negotiations brokered by Egypt, Qatar and the United States proceed. One Israeli conversant in the dialogue mentioned Netanyahu’s public statements didn’t imply he has blocked Israeli negotiators from participating behind the scenes. “They are still talking,” mentioned the individual, who spoke on the situation of anonymity as a result of they weren’t licensed to remark.

But hostage teams reacted with fury. They mentioned Netanyahu was prioritizing the appeasement of his right-wing political base over reaching a deal.

“If the Cairo initiative fails, 134 children and parents will be sacrificed and will die,” the biggest household umbrella group mentioned in an announcement. “Do not sacrifice them, do not abandon them again.”

One member of the family after one other took the stage Saturday to beseech the federal government to behave.

“Leave politics out of this,” the son of 1 hostage cried. “Bring them home now.”

Thousands got here out regardless of heavy rain and chilly winds by means of the weekend. Netanyahu has seen his assist drop to all-time lows as residents more and more maintain him accountable for insurance policies that allowed Hamas to flourish, and the collapse of intelligence and safety that allowed the militants to guide the Oct. 7 assault.

More than two-thirds of Israelis need to see early elections, polls present, and a few third are prepared for them even earlier than the Gaza struggle is concluded. On Saturday, the chief of Israel’s largest and most influential commerce union group referred to as on Netanyahu to step down and face the voters.

“We’re at a dead end, and there’s only one way out — elections,” mentioned Arnon Bar-David, the top of Histadrut, native media reported.

Anger in opposition to the prime minister is rising, however analysts say it’s unlikely to succeed in vital mass till the variety of fight forces in Gaza comes down, tensions ease alongside the border with Lebanon and the hostages are freed.

“There isn’t a sense that we’re in a postwar situation yet,” mentioned Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute. “But we’re getting there.”

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