Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Thousands of Israelis call on Netanyahu to resign over Gaza war

Protesters carry placards during a gathering by relatives of Israeli hostages held in Gaza since the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas militants in front of the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Saturday.  (Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images North America/TNS)
By Sara Lemel, Gregor Mayer and Ramadan al-Fatash German Press Agency

TEL AVIV, Israel – Thousands of Israelis took to the streets again on Saturday to protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing religious government as there is no sign of a letup in Israel’s military campaign in Gaza almost six months in.

In Tel Aviv, demonstrators called for early elections as well as the release of the remaining hostages held by the Palestinian extremist organization Hamas in the Gaza Strip, according to media reports.

Protests also took place in other cities, including Jerusalem and Haifa.

Opponents of the government are planning major demonstrations in Jerusalem from Sunday onwards, which are to last for several days. They also plan to demand the resignation of the government.

A former hostage, whose husband is still being held in Gaza, addressed the demonstration in Tel Aviv, calling on Netanyahu to “Bring them home!”

The woman called on the premier to give the Israeli negotiating team a “broad mandate” in talks on an agreement to release the remaining hostages in return for a cease-fire and a release of Palestinian prisoners. “Don’t come home without a deal, bring our loved ones back,” she said.

The ongoing Gaza war was triggered by the unprecedented massacre committed by Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

They killed some 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took some 250 more hostage.

Israel responded by targeting densely populated Gaza with massive airstrikes and launching a ground operation in the sealed-off coastal area at the end of October.

More than 32,500 Palestinians are said to have been killed as a result so far, and the humanitarian situation in Gaza has reached catastrophic levels, due to the very limited amounts of aid reaching the civilian population.

Some 110 hostages were released in exchange for some 400 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails as part of a temporary truce agreement brokered by Qatar, the United States and Egypt in November.

However, efforts to facilitate another cease-fire and the release of the remaining hostages have stalled repeatedly.

The foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and France on Saturday again called for an immediate cease-fire to ensure an influx of aid into the embattled Gaza Strip.

During talks in Cairo, the ministers discussed the importance of an immediate truce agreement, aid deliveries and the release of hostages kept in Gaza and Palestinian prisoners in Israel, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri told a press conference after the meeting.

Shoukri added that he had also discussed with French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné and their Jordanian counterpart Ayman al-Safadi the risks of a planned Israeli ground offensive in Gaza’s city of Rafah near the Egyptian border.

More than 1 million Palestinians have taken refuge in Rafah after fleeing fighting elsewhere in the coastal strip, but despite mounting warnings from the international community, Israel says it is planning to go ahead with the full-scale incursion.

Séjourné said that France opposes any military action in Rafah.

France’s top diplomat also called for the opening of land crossings to give Gaza access to adequate relief aid and for the “immediate and unconditional” release of hostages held by Hamas.

The Jordanian minister accused Israel of using hunger as a weapon in the war and called for a binding United Nations Security Council resolution to stop what he called the “starvation crime.”

In an effort to ramp up aid deliveries, a freighter and two smaller ships carrying around 875 tons of aid for the population in the embattled Gaza Strip departed from the Cypriot port of Larnaca on Saturday afternoon, Cypriot radio and the Cyprus Times news portal reported.

The port of Larnaca is around 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Gaza. In what is the second delivery of this kind, the ships are expected to arrive in around 65 hours, experts estimated on Cypriot radio.

In Gaza, Israeli troops continued their operations, killing a number of fighters in the al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, the Israel Defense Forces reported on Saturday.

Weapons were seized in the operation which has been continuing for almost two weeks at the hospital, the largest in the Gaza Strip.

According to the IDF, Hamas has reestablished itself in the hospital since Israeli soldiers first cleared the area in November.

Around 200 Hamas fighters have been killed and more than 500 suspects have been arrested in the latest operation, according to the IDF.