The largest protests in Israel since the start of the Gaza war

In the unanimous position of the protest movements, especially the families of Israeli prisoners in Gaza, that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the one obstructing the process of a prisoner exchange deal, demonstrations were launched, 24 hours a day, from Friday evening until Saturday evening, in various parts of Israel. In the summaries, published on Sunday, the organizers confirmed that the number of participants exceeded 40,000, which is the largest number since the start of the Gaza war on October 7.

Slogans were raised in these demonstrations accusing Netanyahu of responsibility for the shedding of Israeli blood in war and in captivity, simply because he wants to ensure the continuation of his rule. Some demonstrators chanted against him in Tel Aviv and Caesarea: “Murderer,” and raised pictures of him against the background of his hands stained with blood.

The demonstrations began on Friday night by raising slogans on bridges and road intersections in more than 60 locations throughout Israel, under the slogan “Guilty,” which appeared with a picture of Netanyahu and his hands stained with blood. The demonstrations in Jerusalem concluded with the march that began five days ago from the Gaza Strip, on foot. When I arrived at Paris Square in West Jerusalem, the number of participants reached about 20,000 demonstrators, including detainees released from Gaza, families of prisoners and reserve soldiers returning from the war.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Reuters)

Posted by Yair Lapid

The head of the Israeli opposition, Yair Lapid, said during his participation in the march: “I am here with you because the state cannot live with the idea that they will not return. If they do not return to their homes, the State of Israel will have betrayed its citizens, and this cannot be allowed to happen.” Lapid accused the government of failing to return the children. Because she is busy staying in power, the demonstrators called on Netanyahu to resign, and explicitly accused him of sacrificing their children.

In Tel Aviv, two demonstrations took place; One on Kaplan Street included 10,000 demonstrators, in which sharp slogans were raised against the government and demanded its resignation and going to elections. They also closed Begin Street, opposite the headquarters of the Ministry of Defense, where the police dispersed them and arrested 7 demonstrators. But the police appeared less violent than their dealings with the demonstrators last week.

The second demonstration was for families of prisoners, and included 12,000 who gathered in front of the headquarters of the Ministry of Defense and the War Command Council. The two demonstrations coalesced. The central speech was delivered by Yair Golan, former deputy chief of staff of the army, who is running for president of the Labor Party. He said that Israel is witnessing the harshest governance crisis in its history due to the failed management of the war on Gaza. He added: “Our children fought in Gaza and achieved great achievements against Hamas. But the government’s behavior threatens to erode these gains; Because she does not really want to release the prisoners.” He called for early elections and holding them within 3 months.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Reuters)

Demonstration near Netanyahu’s house

In Caesarea, more than 1,500 people demonstrated after arriving near the home of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, demanding the overthrow of him and the government, and the immediate holding of elections. There, Dan Halutz, the former Chief of Staff of the Army, gave a speech in which he stressed that the people are capable of overthrowing the government if the number of demonstrators doubles and they insist on demonstrating and disobeying.

Thousands also demonstrated in Haifa, Rehovot, Ness Ziona, Beersheba, Karkur, Nahalal, Rushpina, and a number of other locations and towns against the government, demanding elections, and an end to inaction on the issue of liberating prisoners.

The leadership of the demonstrations was keen to combine speeches by two Arab figures. In Haifa, one of the speakers was Dr. Bashir Karkabi, director of the allergy department at Carmel Hospital. He said, “The government is waging a war in which there is no real concern for security and no real interest in liberating prisoners.” “This is a stupid war of revenge that is causing great harm to Israel’s future. It came to serve Netanyahu’s personal interests and the interests of the blind right.”

In Beersheba, Attiya Al-Aasam, head of the Association of Unrecognized Villages, was a central speaker. He said, “The government is driving a wedge between Jews and Arabs to feed the mentality of war and hostility towards the Palestinians. Rational people on both sides must thwart this conspiracy and respond to it with a joint struggle for peace.”

Israeli Arabs march to commemorate the 46th anniversary of Land Day in the town of Deir Hanna, north of the Galilee region, March 30, 2022 (AFP)

Arab demonstration

“Palestinians 48” were finally able to organize a large demonstration; In protest against the war on Gaza, after the agreement reached by the organizers, the Arab Follow-up Committee, with the police, before the District Court judge. Accordingly, the police reneged on their previous conditions, which were to hold it at a festival and not a demonstration march, hold it in the industrial zone away from the public, and limit the number of participants to 700 people.

According to the agreement, the demonstration was held on the main street, from the memorial to the martyrs of the Palestinian people, north of the town of Kafr Kana, through the main street, and from there to the municipal stadium. About five thousand people participated in it, and the Palestinian flag fluttered above it.

The follow-up said, in a statement of the call, that the demonstration “calls for an end to the criminal war against our people in the Gaza Strip, against the terrible starvation, and to stop the invasion of the city of Rafah, with all the terrible and unprecedented crimes that could result from that, thus constituting an escalation of the war of extermination that is taking place.” “It was launched by Israel, led by its fascist government in Gaza.” The demonstration took place under the slogans “Stop the war” and “No to the war of extermination and displacement.”

The demonstration was led by the leadership of the Follow-up Committee, its Chairman Muhammad Baraka, the Chairman of the National Committee for Heads of Arab Local Authorities, Mudar Younis, the leaders of the follow-up movements and parties, members of the Knesset Ahmed Tibi, Aida Touma Suleiman, Ofer Kassif, and heads of local authorities. A heavy presence of Israeli police forces was observed outside the town of Kafr Kana, and no confrontations or attacks by the police were recorded.

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