'Enough is enough': Israeli protesters demand Gaza truce, hostage deal

Protesters lift placards and flags as they rally to call for the release of Israelis held hostage in Gaza since the October attacks in the central city of Tel Aviv on July 7, 2024. (Photo/AFP)

Israeli protesters marched through Tel Aviv and Jerusalem chanting "we will not give up", in the second consecutive day of stepped-up pressure for a deal to free hostages in Gaza.

The nationwide "disruption day" began at 6:29 am (0329 GMT) to correspond with the start of Hamas's October 7 attack.

In Israel's two largest cities, demonstrators blocked roads, with tens of thousands stopping traffic along major intersections and a highway in central Tel Aviv where police used water canon to disperse them.

Among the protesters, many of whom are related to the hostages, there was a sense the government had deserted those still held in Gaza by Palestinian fighters.

Israel says 116 people remain captive, including 42 the military says are dead.

"The government doesn't care what the people think, and they don't do anything to bring back our sisters and brothers from Gaza," said Orly Nativ, 57, who joined the flag-wielding demonstrators in Tel Aviv.

"Enough is enough."

Many accuse Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving prime minister, of not doing more to secure a truce as a matter of political survival. Two far-right members of his cabinet have threatened to resign if a deal was struck.

"He knows if he ends the war, his government will fall," said Nurit Meiri, 50, a social worker in Jerusalem.

She carried an Israeli flag and wore a "bring them home" t-shirt to the raucous march on the prime minister's house in Jerusalem, which was tailed by a group of young religious men shouting "traitor."

Meiri's cousin was killed on October 7 while visiting family, and her son soon starts his mandatory military service.

"For what? A prime minister who will do anything to stay in power?" she asked as protesters behind her chanted "choose life."

War 'a failure'

Large protests have taken place across Israel's commercial hub every Saturday night for months, but have recently swelled and become more frequent.

By 9:00 pm on Saturday, protest organisers estimated around 176,000 people had filled a Tel Aviv intersection they call "Democracy Square". That would make it one of the biggest demonstrations since the war began.

Earlier, at a separate rally for the hostages, relatives made emotional appeals for a deal to bring home their missing loved ones.

Interspersed between art exhibitions evoking the missing men, women and children and tents selling merchandise to support the families, some in the crowd held up signs saying refusing a deal would be tantamount to death.

"Our message to the government is very simple. There is a deal on the table. Take it," said Yehuda Cohen, father of kidnapped soldier Nimrod Cohen.

Others were more morose.

"This war is a failure," said Inbar R., a 27-year-old tech worker who did not want to give her full last name.

"The only thing it has done is to make the world hate us."


Source: TRT