Thousands of Israelis Demand Hostage Swap Deal

Tel Aviv, MINA – Thousands of Israelis demonstrated Saturday across Israel to demand a hostage swap deal with Palestinian resistance groups, the dismissal of Netanyahu’s government and early elections, according to media reports.

Anadolu Agency reported, protesters gathered in Kaplan Square and other areas in Tel Aviv, including “Hostages Square” and in front of the Ministry of Defense building, Israeli army radio reported.

The Israeli Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper said thousands protested at the Karkur junction near Haifa to demand a hostage deal and the dismissal of the current government.

Demonstrators raised banners that read: “The country is burning” and “The government abandoned the fighters and hostages.”

Several protesters blocked traffic as a form of protest, according to the newspaper.

In Caesarea, near the residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, thousands of demonstrators demanded an immediate hostage swap deal and criticized the government while holding it responsible for the lives of those detained in Gaza.

The protesters demanded the immediate removal of Netanyahu and his government, according to Yedioth Ahronoth.

Other cities witnessed similar protests.

It is expected that the pace of demonstrations will intensify in the coming hours to include all of Israel, especially Tel Aviv, which has seen central protests weekly demanding a hostage swap deal.​​​​​​​

Police arrested two protesters in Kaplan Square, charging them with rioting and disorderly conduct, according to Israeli Army Radio.

Officials dispersed dozens of protesters, accusing them of “engaging in illegal activities,” after they set fires near a shopping complex in central Tel Aviv,

Opposition leader Yair Lapid participated in demonstrations in Hostages Square and in front of the Ministry of Defense.

“This evening, with the families of the detainees in Hostages Square and in Begin Street, there is one decision the government must make tomorrow – to finalize the exchange deal,” Lapid wrote on X.

In Jerusalem, thousands of Israelis demonstrated in Paris Square, calling for a hostage deal and early elections, according to Yedioth Ahronoth.

Through the mediation by Qatar, Egypt and the US, Hamas and Israel have been engaged for months in stalled indirect negotiations to reach an agreement to exchange hostages and end the war against the Gaza Strip that erupted on October 7, 2023.

Israel has killed nearly 36,000 Palestinians since a cross-border attack by Hamas that claimed less than 1,200 lives with 250 others taken as hostages.

Some of the captives were released in exchange for a brief truce and the release of Palestinian prisoners in November.

More than seven months into the conflict, vast swathes of Gaza lay in ruins amid a crippling blockade of food, clean water and medicine.

Israel is accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice, which has mandated Tel Aviv to prevent its forces from committing such acts, and ensure humanitarian aid reaches civilians in Gaza.

In its latest ruling on Friday, the UN court ordered Israel to halt its offensive in the southern city of Rafah, which it started on May 6. (T/RE1/P2)

Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)