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‘Bring everyone back home’ - weekly protests demand hostage deal, blast coalition’s lack of solution for northern border

Rescued hostage Andrey Kozlov calls for hostage release deal 'as soon as possible'

Demonstrators protest calling for the release of Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip and against the current Israeli government outside Defense Headquarters in Tel Aviv, June 15, 2024. (Photo: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Tens of thousands demonstrated in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening, calling for an immediate hostage release deal to free the remaining hostages in Gaza. 

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum said the protest was one of the largest since the beginning of the Oct. 7 Gaza War. 

As in previous demonstrations, there were also many anti-coalition, anti-Netanyahu protesters in the crowds. Many of them held signs and chanted slogans demanding the immediate resignation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and calling for new elections. 

The protests began just as the IDF announced the death of eight soldiers in an attack in the southern town of Rafah.

Some of the protest organizers called for a week of “resistance” against Netanyahu's government, with one group stating: “Next week will be the last week of Netanyahu's destructive government.” 

Some protesters set fire to tents and pallets to symbolize the many fires along the northern border with Lebanon following the increased conflict with the terror group Hezbollah. Other protesters held signs depicting fires and banners with the phrase, "The destruction is already here, we need elections."

Several organizers asked protesters to block the Begin-Kaplan intersection, a major intersection in downtown Tel Aviv. After the main demonstrations ended, mounted police moved in to disperse protesters who ignored instructions to leave the area. 

According to Israel Police, 12 people were arrested in the demonstrations, including a photographer for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. 

The relatives of one hostage, who have been very critical of Netanyahu, accused the prime minister of provoking Hamas to harden its positions in negotiations through repeated calls to achieve “total victory.” 

Israeli hostage Andrey Kozlov, who was rescued on June 8, released a video statement at the Hostage Square rally, calling for a deal to bring the rest of the hostages home. 

“More than 120 hostages are still there, and I can't feel all the happiness from this situation because I was rescued and they were not,” Kozlov said in the statement. 

“I ask to bring them home as soon as possible. Israel, world, Hamas, I ask you to make a deal as soon as possible.” 

Kozlov also recounted how Hamas showed them images of the protests while they were in captivity. 

“Nearly every Saturday night they showed us rallies from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem,” Kozlov said. 

He related that when fellow captive Almog Meir Jan saw his own picture at one of the protests, “It was like a breath of fresh air for him.” 

“You put in so much effort and time into getting us back home and it gave me hope,” Kozlov said. “You are heroes.” 

Michal Lubnov, whose husband Alex is believed to be alive in captivity in Gaza, acknowledged Father’s Day.

“It’s Father’s Day and Alex doesn’t even know he has a boy.” 

Speaking to the protests in Haifa, former Mossad Director Danny Yotam said the Israeli government has a “duty to save them [the hostages].” 

“The state failed to protect them,” Yatom said, “and it's its duty to save them. A government which fails to do so will have betrayed its citizens.” 

Former War Cabinet member Benny Gantz attended a protest for the first time since leaving the emergency government, however, he did not address the crowds. 

In Jerusalem, the Hostage and Families Forum shared the protest event with an anti-government group called “Safeguarding our Shared Home,” which called for the toppling of the coalition government and early elections. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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