Thousands demonstrated in Israel on Saturday, as pressure mounts on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his government’s lack of preparedness for the October 7 attacks and its handling of the ensuing hostage crisis.
The attacks by Gaza’s ruling Islamist movement Hamas took the Israeli military and political establishment by surprise and killed more than 1,400 people, most of them civilians, with 240 more taken hostage, according to the army.
In retaliation, Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas and has mounted a devastating air, ground and sea bombardment followed by a ground invasion of Gaza, where the hostages are believed to be held.
The campaign has killed nearly 9,500 Palestinians. according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.
In Israel’s commercial hub Tel Aviv, several thousand protesters took to the streets on Saturday evening, including relatives and friends of some of the hostages, chanting: “Bring them home now”.
“I expect and demand from my government, think out of the box,” said Hadas Kalderon, who said five members of her family were among the kidnapped.
“I find myself in hell,” she said. “Every day I wake up to another day of war. A war for the life of my children.”
International pressure is growing on Israel to agree to humanitarian pauses in the Gaza fighting, but hostages’ loved-ones said they should be released as a precondition.
“First release them all and then do everything else to deal with the situation,” said 26-year-old Or Levi. “It’s bizarre that the families do the job for the government”.
In Jerusalem, hundreds came together outside Netanyahu’s residence with more explicit calls for his resignation.
“We’d like a vote to be held to get rid of Netanyahu. I hope that the demonstrations will continue and grow,” 39-year-old Netta Tzin told AFP.
“They betrayed us. The only thing that is functioning right now is the people.”
Netanyahu. 74, was facing political pressure even before the Hamas attacks.
The premier, who has led Israel for nearly 16 of the past 27 years, is still fighting three corruption cases in court.
The nine months leading up to October 7 saw mass protests over his hard-right government’s divisive judicial reforms that opponents have called a threat to Israeli democracy.