Protesters across Israel demand early elections and hostages release

Palestinian activists carry posters, one reads "the siege is killing the children," while protesting in front of the Egyptian embassy, in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Palestinian activists carry posters, one reads "the siege is killing the children," while protesting in front of the Egyptian embassy, in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Copyright Nasser Nasser/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Nasser Nasser/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
By Euronews
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The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected the demonstrators demands and continues his offensive in Gaza.

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Israel has seen another weekend of anti-government protests across several cities. 

Anti-government protests that shook Israel for much of 2023 largely subsided during the war, but now they are starting to gather pace again. 

In Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on Saturday, it was the families of hostages who demonstrated - now a weekly tradition. They are demanding an agreement with Hamas to secure the release of 134 hostages who remain in captivity in Gaza.

The Palestinian militant group has said it would free the remaining hostages in exchange for a total ceasefire - something hardline Israeli Primine Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ruled out. 

Protesters in Israel said they were furious over Netanyahu's decision to not send a representative to Egypt’s capital Cairo for talks over ending the Gaza conflict.

He has instead vowed to crush Hamas. 

Demonstrators protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and call for new elections in the latest weekly protest against his handling of the Israel-Hamas war.
Demonstrators protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and call for new elections in the latest weekly protest against his handling of the Israel-Hamas war.Leo Correa/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.

The Palestinian militant group, which took some 240 hostages in its deadly 7 October raid on southern Israel, has said it would release all of the remaining captives when Israel lifted its "unjust siege" on Gaza. 

It is also demanding the release of hundreds of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

Netanyahu has publicly rejected the demands, calling Hamas’s ceasefire call “delusional” and rejected US and international calls for a pathway to Palestinian statehood.

Israel's leader said he sent a delegation to the talks in Cairo last week at US President Joe Biden’s request but did not see the point in sending them again.

“I’d like to say to the government that you’ve had your time, you ruined everything that you can ruin. Now is the time for the people to correct all the things, all the bad things that you’ve done,” said one protester.

Netanyahu has seen his popularity plummet in opinion polls since the October 7 attack that sparked the devastating war on Gaza.

"I believe that we need unity in the army, but here on the street we need to call for elections to have a democratic dialogue and decide what to do when the war is over," said former IDF soldier Or Szneiberg.

Netanyahu rejects calls for early election

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a gathering of Jewish leaders at the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a gathering of Jewish leaders at the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024.Ohad Zwigenberg/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.

The Israeli PM has rejected calls for an early election.

A member of Israel's War Cabinet has vowed to invade Rafah if the remaining Israeli hostages are not freed by the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Announced by Netanyahu earlier this month, Israel's plan to invade the border city has sparked concern around the world, even from some of the country's staunchest allies.

More than half of Gaza's population have fled to Rafah, which lies on the frontier with Egypt after Israeli forces ordered them to evacuate there.

The Gaza Health Ministry on Saturday raised the overall death toll in Gaza to 28,858, saying the bodies of 83 people killed in Israeli bombardments were brought to hospitals in the past 24 hours.

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