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6 Apr, 2024 19:56

Tens of thousands demand Netanyahu’s ‘immediate’ replacement

Demonstrators have accused the Israeli prime minister of slow-walking a ceasefire deal to please hardliners in his cabinet
Tens of thousands demand Netanyahu’s ‘immediate’ replacement

Tens of thousands of protesters have gathered in Tel Aviv to demand the resignation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the return of hostages still held by Hamas in Gaza. 

Nearly six months to the day since Israel declared war on Hamas, around 100,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv’s Democracy Square on Saturday evening, protest organizers claimed. Carrying Israeli flags and chanting anti-government slogans, the demonstrators called for early elections and implored Netanyahu to strike a deal with the Palestinian militants to release more than 100 Israelis thought to remain in captivity.

Speaking at a pre-protest press conference, Einav Zangauker, whose son was taken to Gaza as a hostage, claimed that Netanyahu is deliberately avoiding a deal with Hamas in order to please his far-right coalition partners.

“Netanyahu is failing the deal on purpose and he is standing between us and our loved ones in Gaza,” Zangauker said, according to the Times of Israel. “The hostages don’t have time for elections and to wait, the obstacle to the deal must be removed now and Netanyahu replaced immediately.”

As the crowd gathered in Tel Aviv, Israeli and Hamas delegations prepared to travel to Cairo for Egyptian- and Qatari-brokered ceasefire negotiations on Sunday. While a temporary ceasefire in late November saw Hamas swap 105 hostages for 240 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, successive rounds of talks have failed, with Israel refusing to accept the phased release of captives proposed by Hamas, and the militants refusing to accept anything less than a full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

Netanyahu insists that Israel will keep fighting until it achieves “total victory” over Hamas, and that the Jewish state will maintain “full security control” over Gaza once the war concludes. 

The Israeli prime minister was unpopular before the war began in October, with tens of thousands of people marching almost weekly to demand his resignation over multiple corruption scandals and a package of controversial judicial reforms. The war put a stop to the protests until earlier this year but the demonstrations have increased in scale since last month.