Israel: Huge public protests seek new elections, return of hostages

Story by  ANI | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 23-06-2024
Children too join protests in Israel (x)
Children too join protests in Israel (x)


Tel Aviv

Tens of thousands of people held anti-government protests in several parts of Israel on Saturday night, calling for new elections and the return of hostages held in Gaza, The Times of Israel reported.

On Tel Aviv's Kaplan Street, David Grossman, one of Israel's best-known authors, urged the people of Israel to fill the streets with demonstrations and fight for their country in a poem he read to protesters.

He read, "There's someone and something to fight for. For such a gift, from life, we will nevermore receive... Now's the time to rise, to live. To be a people or not to be. To be people or not to be... All hangs by a thread."

Former Shin Bet chief, Yuval Diskin called Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "the worst and most failed prime minister in the history of the state." Diskin, who served as Shin Bet intelligence agency chief from 2005 to 2011, demanded elections at the earliest possible opportunity.

"For many weeks, I rejected requests to join the protests. Something deep inside me told me that it wasn't time yet, that maybe it wasn't right to change governments during a war, and that unity was the most important thing," The Times of Israel quoted Diskin as saying.

"But I find myself amazed, every day, by the government's uselessness, the failed management of the war, the lie of 'total victory,' the total evasion of responsibility, the destruction of our strategic relations with the United States, and perhaps most of all, missing every opportunity to return our kidnapped brothers and sisters, who continue to languish in Hamas captivity in Gaza," he added.

People staged a protest on King George Street, outside Beit Jabotinsky, home to the ruling Likud party's headquarters. Some protesters held signs demanding early elections, and others held banners calling for an end to the fighting in Gaza.

After the main rally ended, several protesters stayed and blocked the road, burning tyres. Mounted police personnel moved in to disperse the crowd, clearing the road and arresting three protesters, The Times of Israel reported.

In video footage, police could be seen riding into the crowds, moving protesters aside with their horses. Several people seemed to be pushed around by police, while other protesters attempted to stop police from hurting those being pushed.

The protesters included Labor lawmaker Gilad Kariv, who shouted that mounted police to move aside from the sidewalks and warned that their deployment was illegal.

Meanwhile, thousands of people held a protest outside Israel PM Netanyahu's residence on Azza Street in what organisers termed the largest Saturday night protest there since October 7, The Times of Israel report.

Protesters led by family members of hostages held by Hamas marched down King George Street, demanding an immediate deal and early polls. The protesters accused Netanyahu's government of abandoning Israel's embattled northern communities, some 60,000 of whose residents have been displaced for more than eight months due to Hezbollah fire.

After the marchers reached their destination outside Netanyahu's residence, they participated in a joint rally organized by the local branch of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum and the city's anti-government movement, Safeguarding our Shared Home.

 In addition, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum held rallies across the country, including addresses by hostages whom Hamas released from captivity in November. It is believed that 116 people held hostage by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza, not all of them are alive.

Hamas has repeatedly said that it will only release hostages within a framework that permanently ends the war. The demand has been rejected by Israel.

Meanwhile, thousands of people held rally in Tel Aviv to mark the 20th birthday of hostage Naama Levy. The protesters released balloons and chanted to the beat of drums. They shared bite-sized cupcakes decorated with birthday candles while demanding the release of all hostages.

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Naama Levy's father, Yoni Levy said, "She needs to be here with her family, with her friends." After Naama was kidnapped from the Nahal Oz military base, a Hamas video appeared on Telegram, showing Levy being pulled by her hair from the back of a black pickup truck and then pushed into the back seat, The Times of Israel reported. In the video, her hands were tied, her feet were bare, and her pants was covered in blood and dirt.