Thousands of Israelis demonstrated for the release of hostages held by the Islamist Hamas and against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government on Saturday evening.

People in Tel Aviv shouted, “Time is running out, bring them home!” according to Israeli media reports.

The demonstrators set several small fires on the streets in the city centre and blocked a main traffic route.

Their calls were also directed against Netanyahu, whose critics say has failed to manage the crisis following the attacks by Palestinian Islamist Hamas on southern Israel in October, triggering the current war.

Protesters say Netanyahu is focusing more on ensuring his political survival than the release of the hostages kidnapped and taken to Gaza in the October 7 attacks. “Whoever abandoned them must bring them back!” they shouted.

Demonstrators demanded that Netanyahu’s government resign and new elections be held, as was the case in similar rallies held since the war broke out.

One speaker said: “My cousin Ofer has been a prisoner of Hamas for 169 days. And we have been prisoners of our government for 169 days.”

Up to 240 people were taken hostage by the Hamas militants who killed some 1,200 in their attacks. Israel responded with overwhelming ground and air attacks on Gaza, aiming to crush Hamas.

Just over 100 hostages were released during a ceasefire in November. Israel estimates some 100 hostages in Gaza are still alive.

The US, Egypt and Qatar have been mediating in ongoing negotiations to secure their release of the hostages in return for Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails.

Several hundred people also demonstrated in front of Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem on Saturday evening. “Decisive negotiations are taking place in Qatar these days,” said a speaker whose brother is among the hostages. “Israel’s government must not let this opportunity pass.”

People demonstrate against the Israeli government and demand the return of Israeli hostages taken by Hamas. Cindy Riechau/dpa

People demonstrate against the Israeli government and demand the return of Israeli hostages taken by Hamas. Cindy Riechau/dpa



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