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Thousands rally in Tel Aviv demanding prisoner exchange deal with Hamas

March 24, 2024 at 1:50 pm

Relatives of Israeli prisoners, held by Hamas, light a fire as they gather to stage a demonstration, demanding immediate return of Hamas prisoners to their homes, in front of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s house in Caesarea, Israel on March 21,2024. [Matan Golan – Anadolu Agency]

Thousands of Israelis held protests in Kaplan Square, central Tel Aviv, against the current government led by Benjamin Netanyahu and demanded a hostage swap deal with Hamas, the Israel Broadcasting Authority reported on Saturday, Anadolu Agency reports.

The demonstrators raised pictures of dozens of Israeli hostages held in Gaza, and chanted: “Elections now”, according to the authority.

At the same time, about 300 protesters closed Begin Street adjacent to the Ministry of Defense Headquarters in Tel Aviv, according to Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

They raised a banner with “169” written on it, indicating the number of days of war, Yedioth Ahronoth added.

It is expected that the pace of the protests will increase later, and spread to other areas and cities.

Israel holds in its prisons at least 9,100 Palestinians, according to Palestinian official sources, while the number of Israeli hostages held in Gaza remains unclear due to Hamas’ refusal to disclose the number “without a hefty price.”

READ: 19 Palestinians killed as Israeli forces shell Palestinians waiting for aid in Gaza

While Israeli media speaks of between 240 and 253 Israeli hostages, including three who were released by Israel and 105 who were released by Hamas during an exchange deal last November, the Palestinian movement speaks of the killing of 70 others due to Israeli shelling.

Israel has launched a deadly military offensive on the Gaza Strip since an Oct. 7, 2023 Hamas attack, which Tel Aviv said killed less than 1,200 people.

More than 32,100 Palestinians have since been killed and over 72,400 others injured amid mass destruction and shortages of necessities.

Israel has also imposed a crippling blockade on the Gaza Strip, leaving its population, particularly residents of northern Gaza, on the verge of starvation.

The Israeli war has pushed 85% of Gaza’s population into internal displacement amid acute shortages of food, clean water, and medicine, while 60% of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice. An interim ruling in January ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.

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