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Protests intensify across Israel as hostage rallies and anti-government protests unite

Rally is planned for Sunday as Israelis call for immediate hostage deal and early elections

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, March 30, 2024. (Photo: Itai Ron/Flash90)

Tens of thousands of Israelis attended protests across the nation on Saturday evening, as families of Israeli hostages and their supporters joined in protests against the government. 

In Tel Aviv, protesters and police officers clashed during the demonstration, with Israel Police declaring the rally illegal. 

Families of the hostages appealed to the government to negotiate with the Hamas terrorist organization, saying their loved ones' survival was at risk. 

Raz Ben-Ami, a former hostage, spoke at the rally, and said of the hostages: “They won't last there, no one can survive what they go through.” 

Shira Albag, the mother of hostage Liri Albag, said: “The people of Israel won't forget or forgive anyone who prevents a deal that would bring them back to us," she stated. 

“Any action taken to take to the streets to bring back the abductees is legitimate, there is no right or wrong here,” stated Ayala Yahalomi-Luzon, whose brother Ohad is being held captive by terrorists in Gaza.

She said she was there to call for action regarding the hostages. 

“We don't want to upset anyone,” Yahalomi-Luzon said, “we just have to remember that the basis of Israeli society was and remains mutual responsibility, to love your neighbor as yourself and don't abandon the wounded in the field. That should be the consensus.” 

Demonstrators clash with police during a 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, March 30, 2024. (Photo: Itai Ron/Flash90)

The demonstration, which was the first time that anti-government and hostage families have officially joined protests, saw several acts of public disturbance, including bonfire lighting on the streets. In a video shared on social media, protesters could be seen surrounding a police car; rocking and jumping up and down on it. 

Police brought mounted units and water cannons to clear the protesters who blocked the main highway in Tel Aviv. 

Israel Police reported the arrest of 16 protesters after the demonstration and said that nine tickets had been issued to protesters for blocking roads and obstructing traffic. 

In a statement, the police said, “We will not allow disturbances of public order of any kind or infringement of freedom of movement and any behavior that may endanger the safety of the public.” 

In Jerusalem, demonstrators broke through police barricades near the Prime Minister’s official residence and were arrested.

A new demonstration is planned for Sunday afternoon in Jerusalem, calling for an immediate hostage release deal. A student protest group called “Dorshiniu” [Generation of Change] called for university students to attend the protest. 

“Israel is at a crossroads. Following the terrible tragedy we have known, in the midst of a war that has been going on for six months, in a reality in which 134 abductees are still languishing in Hamas captivity, we, young men and women, students and students, are unable to stay at home,” the group said in a statement on Saturday.

“Tomorrow we intend to go up with masses to the Israeli Knesset and set up a protest tent there with a clear demand: the return of the abductees and the announcement of a date for elections. We are doing this for the future of the country, for the students still held captive by Hamas, and for a sane and responsible leadership for Israel.” 

The Israel Business Forum, which includes the leaders of the 200 largest companies in Israel and employs most of the workers in the private sector in Israel, announced that they would allow interested workers to attend the demonstration in Jerusalem on Sunday, appealing to the government to act on behalf of the hostages and to set early elections. 

“This is an emergency for Israel and those who are interested should be allowed to participate in the democratic act,” the forum said in a statement. 

According to the forum, each business will set the terms for employees who wish to participate. 

Several technology companies have also permitted workers to attend the Sunday rally without fear of reprisal. 

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

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