Tens of Thousands of Israelis Protest Ruling Coalition, Demand Hostage Deal Following U.S. Gaza Proposal

20:00 Jun 1 2024 Tel Aviv (תֵּל אָבִיב-יָפוֹ), Jerusalem (יְרוּשָׁלַיִם‎ القُدس‎ ), Haifa (חֵיפָה‎ حَيْفَا), Caesarea (קֵיסָרְיָה), and Be'er Sheva (באר שבעبئر السبع)

Photos: Published by Haaretz

People protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government and call for the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip by Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, June 1, 2024. Credit: Maya Alleruzzo,AP

Protesters scuffle with police during a protest in Tel Aviv, Saturday. Credit: Marko Djurica/ REUTERS

Relatives and supporters of Israelis held hostage demonstrate in Tel Aviv on Saturday. Credit: AFP

by Bar Peleg and Adi Hashmonai for Haaretz
Jun 1, 2024 8:18 pm IDT

Thousands of Israelis protested against the government and in support of the U.S. hostage release proposal in Tel Aviv and in several locations across the country, including Jerusalem, Haifa, Caesarea, and Be'er Sheva.

Protesters clashed with police at the anti-government demonstration in Tel Aviv, and two protesters were arrested at the Azrieli junction. Thousands of protesters gathered around a bonfire in the middle of the intersection, preventing police from dispersing the crowd and putting the fire out.

Mounted police entered the intersection to disperse the crowd, and police officers entered the area and violently arrested protesters. Police vehicles with water cannons arrives to extinguish the fires in the intersection.

Prior to the protests, several family members of hostages addressed the media, urging the government to accept a hostage deal proposal set out by U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday night. In a statement, they said, "President Biden's speech brought a glimmer of real hope."

Einav Zangauker, whose son Matan is held hostage in Gaza, said that Biden spoke "because he knows that Netanyahu could very well sabotage this proposed deal as well. After months of Netanyahu's obstruction of the efforts to reach a hostage release deal, President Biden wanted the public to know exactly what is on the table right now. And we are extremely concerned that Netanyahu will once again attempt to sabotage this deal!"

In a joint statement, the families said urged moderate ministers Gantz, Eisenkot "to make sure that Netanyahu does not sabotage the deal again," imploring them, along with Defense Minister Gallant, to "tell the public that you support the proposed deal as it was presented by President Biden, including putting an end to this war and enacting a plan for the 'Day After'."

The Hostages and Missing Families' forum stated that on Saturday evening they will launch an "emergency operation" to secure a majority in the government and the Knesset to implement a hostage release deal.

"The forum demands the return of all hostages, whether for rehabilitation or burial, and not to miss the opportunity that has arisen to bring them home. In the coming hours, hostages' families will arrive at the homes of all cabinet members, the government, and the Knesset, demanding immediate approval of Netanyahu's deal," they stated.

The weekly rally at Hostage Square took place after Hamas released a hostage video Friday featuring the voice of Noa Argamani, who was abducted from the Nova festival and the recent hostage deal proposal.

In recent weeks, the Tel Aviv police have used barriers, riot dispersal measures, and significant force to clear Kaplan Junction of protesters after the families' speeches.

Shaul Meridor, the former head of the Finance Ministry's budget division, spoke at the anti-government rally in Tel Aviv and said that the Israeli economy cannot sustain itself if ultra-Orthodox men don't join the workforce or the military. "This policy is leading us to become a third world country," he said. According to him, "The government has one policy - the political survival of Netanyahu and his extreme and messianic government."

"They act as if everything is allowed to them. I am here to remind us and them: we will never get used to a never-ending war and the lack of vision and hope. There has to be better here. For that to happen - we will send them home," he said.

In Haifa, thousands of protesters gathered in the city center, where Professor Itamar Mann, an expert in international law, spoke. In his speech, Mann referred to the potential ICC issue arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Defense Minster Gallant. According to him, "stopping the legal tsunami against Israel is not possible, as long as this evil government is in power."

Mann said that "the lawlessness surrounding the planning of a war that has no end in sight, and no longer has clear and convincing goals, will most likely lead to criminal investigations against officers as well. We will do everything to bring down the government, and hopefully also to judge those who committed crimes not only against the citizens of Gaza, but also against us, the citizens of Israel."

Around 2,000 protesters participated in the demonstration near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's house in Caesarea.

Around 1,500 people demostrated at the Karkur junction in Northern Israel. The protesters blocked the intersection, and at least three protesters were detained.

Demonstrations over ceasefire, hostage release proposal 6/1/2024.
Demonstrations over ceasefire, hostage release propoal 6/1/2024.
Demonstrations over ceasefire, hostage release proposal 6/1/2024.
Demonstrations over ceasefire, hostage release proposal 6/1/2024.
Demonstrations over ceasefire, hostage release proposal 6/1/2024.
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