Tens of Thousands rally against Netanyahu amid Gaza war

Tens of thousands of protesters, chanting slogans against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, rallied in Tel Aviv Saturday, demanding new elections and the return of captives held in the Gaza Strip.

Large protests have occurred in the city on a weekly basis over Netanyahu’s handling of the nearly nine-month-old war in Gaza started by Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel.

Many protesters held signs reading “Crime Minister” and “Stop the War” as people poured into the biggest Israeli city’s main thoroughfare.

“I am here because I am afraid of the future of my grandchild. There will be no future for them if we don’t go out and get rid of the horrible government,” said contractor Shai Erel, 66.

“All of the rats in the Knesset … I wouldn’t let any one of them be a guard of a kindergarten.”

Antigovernment protest organisation Hofshi Israel estimated more than 150,000 people attended the rally, calling it the biggest since Israel’s war on Gaza.

Some demonstrators lay on the ground covered in red paint in the city’s Democracy Square to protest what they say is the death of democracy under Netanyahu.

In an address to the crowd, a former head of Israel’s domestic Shin Bet security agency, Yuval Diskin, condemned Netanyahu as Israel’s “worst prime minister”.

Many are frustrated with Israel’s right-wing coalition, which includes Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and other far-right ultranationalists, accusing it of prolonging the war in Gaza and putting Israel’s security and captives at risk.

Yoram, a 50-year-old tour guide who declined to give his last name, stated he was attending every weekly protest as Israel needed elections “yesterday” because of Netanyahu.

“I really hope the government collapses. If we go to the original date of elections in 2026, it is not going to be a democratic election.”

A separate Tel Aviv rally on Saturday night drew thousands of relatives and supporters of the captives.

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