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Protests erupt in Tel Aviv over hostages held by Hamas

Demonstrators burn fire during a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, and calling for the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip by the
Demonstrators burn fire during a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, and calling for the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip by the Copyright Ariel Schalit/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Ariel Schalit/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Daniel HarperAP
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Protesters also demanded the resignation of Israeli pime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who they accuse of prolonging the Gaza war for his own political gain.

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Scuffles broke out between Israeli police and protesters in Tel Aviv on Saturday.

Thousands gathered to demand the government secure the release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, keeping up months-long street demonstrations. 

Demonstrators carried photos of female soldiers abducted by Palestinian militants during the surprise 7 October attack on southern Israel. 

Protesters also called for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s resignation and new elections, holding banners that read "stop the war". 

“We saw the video, we couldn’t stay at home after the government abandoned all these people,” said Hilit Sagi from the group Women Protest for the Return of All Hostages. 

Seven arrests and at least one injury were reported.

Tensions have increased as divisions grow over Netanyahu’s handling of the conflict, amid accusations he is prolonging the war for his own personal political gain. 

Hamas has continually insisted it will only return the remaining Israeli hostages if Israel agrees to a permanent ceasefire in Gaza - something Netanyahu has ruled out. 

During the 7 October attack, which left about 1,200 Israelis dead, Hamas took around  250 hostages. Israel claims around 100 hostages remain in Gaza, along with the bodies of 30 more.

Hamas freed around half of the hostages in prisoner swaps during a ceasefire in November, while there are reports others have been killed in Israeli fire. 

"Basically, they are not doing enough for the hostages to come back, either with military force or negotiating," said Snir Dahan, whose niece, Carmel Gat, is a hostage in Gaza.

Earlier this week, the bodies of three hostages killed on the day of the attack were recovered from Gaza. 

Police use water cannon to disperse demonstrators during a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government
Police use water cannon to disperse demonstrators during a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's governmentAriel Schalit/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.

The Israeli offensive has resulted in the deaths of over 36,000 Palestinians, many of them women and children, according to Gaza's Health Ministry. 

Thousands more are believed buried under rubble, with tens of thousands wounded.

A US military vessel and part of a docking area for aid in Gaza washed up in southern Israel, near Ashdod. 

US Central Command said four vessels supporting the aid mission broke free from moorings in rough seas. Recovery efforts are under way. 

US officials aim for the pier to deliver 150 truckloads of aid to Gaza daily, although the need is estimated at 600 truckloads to address the humanitarian crisis.

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