Photo: Ahmad Gharabli Agence France-Presse Relatives and supporters take part in a rally calling for the release of Israeli hostages held in Gaza since the October 7 attacks by Hamas in southern Israel, in Tel Aviv, January 20, 2023.
France Media Agency in Tel-Aviv
- Middle East
Thousands of Israelis demonstrated on Saturday in Tel Aviv to demand the return of hostages held since October 7 in the Gaza Strip and to demand the departure of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accused in particular of continuing the war to stay in power.
Protesters marched through Habima Square, some carrying signs castigating Benjamin Netanyahu with slogans such as “the face of evil” and demanding “elections now”.
Mr. Netanyahu faces intense pressure to secure the return of hostages kidnapped on October 7 during an unprecedented Hamas attack on Israeli soil, then taken to the Gaza Strip, where Israel has been waging a war against the movement Palestinian.
Of the approximately 250 people kidnapped, around a hundred were released during a truce at the end of November, and 132 are still in Gaza. Among them, 27 died without their bodies having been returned according to a report established by AFP based on Israeli data.
“The way things are going, all the hostages are going to die. It is not too late to release them,” Avi Lulu Shamriz, the father of one of the hostages killed in Gaza, pleaded on Saturday.
During a briefing on Saturday evening, Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari said his troops had found a tunnel in Khan Yunis (south) with “evidence of the presence of hostages” inside. including drawings made by a five-year-old child held there.
“Around twenty hostages” were locked up there at different times, “in difficult conditions, without daylight […] with little oxygen and terrible humidity,” continued Daniel Hagari .
The October 7 attack resulted in the deaths of around 1,140 people in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
In Gaza, nearly 25,000 people, the vast majority women, children and adolescents, were killed by bombings and military operations, according to the Hamas Ministry of Health.
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Mr. Netanyahu says he wants to continue the war until Hamas is “eliminated.”
“Everyone in the country, except his toxic coalition, knows that his decisions are not made for the good of the country, that he is only trying to stay in power,” criticizes Saturday Yair Katz, 69. “We all want him to resign. »
“The country is run by criminals who have absolutely no interest in the citizens,” denounces Boaz Sadeh, 46 years old. “They don’t do anything to free them,” he adds.
In Jerusalem, some 250 people also gathered on Saturday in front of the prime minister's residence, with flowers and signs bearing the image of the hostages.
Head of the Israeli government from 1996 to 1999 then from 2009 to 2021, Benjamin Netanyahu has held the position again since the 2022 elections after forming a coalition with ultra-Orthodox and far-right parties.
Even before October 7, Mr. Netanyahu faced massive street protests against a justice reform his government was trying to pass.