Thousands block main streets in Tel Aviv, demanding release of hostages in Gaza

Thousands of protesters closed two main streets in Tel Aviv late Wednesday, demanding an immediate deal between the Israeli government and Hamas for the release of captives held in the Gaza Strip.

Around 5,000 protesters, including families of hostages, closed the main Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv, while others closed nearby Kaplan Street on both sides, blocking traffic, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported.

They held up photos of the hostages and banners with slogans such as “Deal Now”, “Ceasefire”, “Bring back the hostages” and “There is no military solution to a political problem.”

In recent days, popular pressure has increased on the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reach an immediate deal for the release of around 137 hostages that Israel claims are still being held by the Palestinian group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Israeli daily Israel Hayom reported that Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich told the families of the hostages that he cannot commit to bringing them all back alive, marking a first-of-its-kind statement.

Netanyahu stated Monday there is an Israeli proposal to reach an agreement with Palestinian factions in Gaza, without disclosing its details.

Hamas has not officially commented on the Israeli offer so far.

Egypt, Qatar and the US are sponsoring efforts to reach a second temporary pause in fighting in Gaza. The first pause was reached in November last year, resulting in the release of 105 detainees held by Hamas, including 81 Israelis, 23 Thai citizens and one Filipino, as well as 240 Palestinian prisoners.

Since Oct. 7 last year, the Israeli army has been conducting a destructive war in the Gaza Strip, resulting in 25,700 fatalities and 63,750 injuries, most of them women and children, say Palestinian authorities, and causing massive destruction and an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe, according to the United Nations.

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