Several thousand supporters, friends and families of the Israeli captives taken by Hamas on October 7 rallied in Tel Aviv’s “Hostage Square” on Saturday.
“This is unprecedented because, throughout the beginning of this war, everyone had agreed, including the anti-government protesters, that they needed to be unified at a time when there is war, at a time when captives are still being held in Gaza,” stated Al Jazeera’s Sara Khairat, reporting from Tel Aviv.
The turnout of people in the square was much higher than in recent weeks when a few dozen to a few hundred people gathered. “Now, quite a few thousand people [are] gathered here,” she added.
Protesters shouted: “Bushah bushah, bushah”, meaning “shame, shame, shame” in reference to the government, with some also blaming Netanyahu and other officials for the events of October 7.
“This just gives you a sense of how angry some of these people are,” Khairat continued.
In Jerusalem, people gathered in front of the house of Israeli President Isaac Herzog to demonstrate, demanding the return of the more than 100 captives still held in Gaza.
Around 240 people were taken hostage during Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7. Dozens have been freed but many more remain missing, presumed to be held by the Palestinian organization and other groups in Gaza, following the breakdown of a temporary truce in November.
The Israeli prime minister’s office believes 135 hostages remain in Gaza, 116 of whom are alive.
Hamas has stressed that it rejects any forms of negotiations about prisoner exchanges “under the continuing Israeli genocidal war”.
Gaza’s Health Ministry reported the death toll since the start of the attacks rose to 22,700 on Saturday, most of them being women and children.
According to UN estimates, the war has displaced 1.9 million of Gaza’s 2.3 million population.
The UN has described the situation in Gaza as “beyond catastrophic”, with residents struggling to find food, fuel and water, while living in crowded shelters or tents.