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Thousands of Israelis protest against government, urging captive deal

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Thousands of Israeli antigovernment protesters have gathered in Tel Aviv, among other parts of the country, to call on the government to reach a deal to free dozens of captives held by the Hamas group in Gaza and to hold early elections.

The demonstrators shouted slogans late on Saturday, expressing anger at Benjamin Netanyahu’s government for its inability to secure the release of the captives after six months of fighting.

Israeli media reported scenes of confrontations between security forces and protesters in Tel Aviv, where demonstrators reportedly started several fires, before they were quickly put out by the police.

People chanted “Police, police who exactly are you guarding?”, and “Ben-Gvir is a terrorist”, referring to Israel’s minister of national security, the Haaretz newspaper reported.

The protest organisers quoted by local media said rallies were taking place at about 50 other locations nationwide in addition to Tel Aviv.

Such Saturday protests have become a regular occurrence in Tel Aviv and other parts of the country, since the early months of the war that began on October 7.

The latest demonstrations come as ceasefire negotiations – which include discussions about the release of the captives – are set to take place in Cairo. The talks are being mediated by Qatar, Egypt and the United States.

Two protests merge

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Tel Aviv, said that two different rallies had merged on Saturday, and the huge turnout of protesters was likely to put a lot of pressure on Netanyahu.

“The ‘Bring Them Home Campaign’ now joined the antigovernment protesters,” he said.

“The former is the advocacy group for the hostages. For six months, they have been demanding the prime minister to release the Palestinian political prisoners and in turn, get the hostages back.

“Now, they are saying enough is enough. It has been six months and nothing has happened in terms of getting the majority of people out,” our correspondent added.

“All the speeches we heard tonight had two key messages: Netanyahu failed and the hostages have to come home now.”

Organisers of the antigovernment protests in Tel Aviv say that 100,000 people participated in the demonstrations, according to the Israeli media.

Israel declared war on Gaza after Hamas carried out a deadly attack on October 7, killing some 1,200 people and taking more than 200 others captive. More than 100 have since been released, but others remain captive in Gaza.

Netanyahu launched Israel’s relentless war on Gaza in the aftermath of Hamas’s attack.

In the last six months, at least 33,137 Palestinians have been killed and 75,815 wounded in Israeli attacks on the strip – with starvation and famine reported in particular in the north of the enclave due to lack of international aid access.

Israel said on Saturday its special forces had recovered the body of a captive killed in Gaza.

A new round of indirect truce negotiations is expected to begin in Cairo on Sunday. CIA Director Bill Burns will attend the talks along with his Egyptian counterpart. A representative from Hamas will also attend, the group said on Saturday. The Israeli side has not yet said whether it would send a delegation to the talks.


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