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Protesters again call for early elections, say Netanyahu undermining hostage deal

In Jerusalem, families of fallen soldiers stage counter protests calling for an operation in Rafah

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, May 4, 2024. (Photo: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Families of hostages and anti-government demonstrators protested across the country on Saturday night, demanding that a deal be reached as soon as possible to release the hostages. This comes amid reports of possible positive developments from Hamas and resistance from Israel.

In Tel Aviv, there were separate demonstrations; one calling for elections held at Kaplan Square and another held at the Hostage Families Square, next to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. A smaller rally, involving families of hostages, also took place near the Israeli Military Defense Headquarters, known as "the Kirya."

Thousands turned out for the rally at Hostage Square, where family members noted the upcoming Holocaust Remembrance Day, which begins on Sunday evening. The families called on members of the War Cabinet to approve the hostage deal currently being negotiated. 

"Your historic role requires you to approve the deal that is now on the table; fulfill your responsibilities as leaders,” the families said. 

Simultaneously, another protest on Begin Road near the Kirya featured strong statements from relatives of the hostages directed against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The mother of the hostage Matan Tzangauker, Einav, accused Netanyahu of “torpedoing the deal.” 

“This is the 211th day that our families are in hell in Gaza,” Einav said. “There is now a deal on the table. Hamas has signaled that it agrees to it, but Netanyahu is initiating another move to torpedo the deal. It's a crime, he abandons them to their deaths. End the war, bring back the hostages first.” 

Her statements referenced a remark made by an anonymous Israeli official, following reports in both Israeli and Arab media suggesting that Israel and Hamas were nearing an agreement on a deal to cease hostilities and free hostages.

“Contrary to the reports, Israel will under no circumstances agree to the end of the war as part of an agreement to release our hostages,” the anonymous official said.

Times of Israel reported a statement by a Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan, saying the group would not agree to a deal that does not include a permanent ceasefire.

Hamdan said the discussions were focused on "the main issue, which is the complete ceasefire and complete withdrawal from Gaza."

Danny Elgart, whose brother Itzik is still being held captive in Gaza, addressed Netanyahu: “The war is over, don't manipulate us.” 

He accused Netanyahu of being afraid of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who has called for Israel to continue the war and enter Rafah. 

“Entering Rafah is a death sentence for abductees – you have no mandate to kill 132 civilians in order to be prime minister,” Elgart said. 

At the end of the Tel Aviv demonstrations, thousands of people, including family members of the hostages, marched from Kaplan Street to Begin Road, and briefly blocked the busy intersection of Ayalon Highway.

In Jerusalem, hundreds of people participated in a rally in Paris Square calling for the return of the hostages, followed by a march to Bell Garden while calling for early elections. 

At the same time, another group of families from the Heroism Forum, demanded that Israel enter Rafah and not continue negotiations. The families blocked the entrance to Jerusalem near Chords Bridge, chanting, “Do not surrender to Hamas.” 

“Our loved ones died bravely for all of us, we will not allow their deaths to be in vain,” the families said. 

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

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