Saturday, May 25, 2024

Israelis demand release of Gaza captives, early elections

Tens of thousands of people on Saturday held protests across the occupied Palestinian territories, demanding the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip and calling for early elections.

The Israeli broadcasting authority reported that the protesters gathered at Kaplan Square, calling for a hostage swap deal with Palestinian factions in the besieged enclave and for early elections.

Families of hostages held in Gaza also participated in the protests, delivering speeches in front of the demonstrators, according to the broadcasting authority.

According to the Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, clashes erupted between police and protesters at Kaplan Square.

Thousands of more Israelis also gathered on Begin Street in front of the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv.

Many people also demonstrated near the home of Israeli President Isaac Herzog in West Jerusalem, demanding the return of those held in Gaza and calling for early elections, according to Yedioth Ahronoth daily.

Additionally, thousands of Israelis protested near the residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Caesarea and thousands more in Haifa.

Demonstrations in Israel have intensified after a video released by Al-Qassam Brigades showed two hostages held in Gaza demanding the Israeli government to make a hostage swap deal to secure their release.

In response to the video, families of the hostages announced in a statement: “Israel must choose between (invading) Rafah or a deal (with Hamas),” the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported.

The families urged government members to release the hostages held in Gaza, even if it means ending the war.

Tel Aviv believes 134 Israelis are being held in Gaza, while Israel is holding some 9,000 Palestinians in its jails.

Israel has killed more than 34,300 Palestinians since an Oct. 7, 2023 cross-border attack by Hamas in which some 1,200 Israelis were killed and around 250 hostages taken.

A previous deal in November saw the release of 81 Israelis and 24 foreigners in exchange for 240 Palestinians, including 71 women and 169 children.

The US, Qatar and Egypt have tried to broker an agreement to release the remaining Israeli captives.

The conflict has pushed 85% of Gaza’s population into internal displacement amid acute shortages of food, clean water, and medicine, while 60% of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which in January issued an interim ruling that ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.

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