Written by 18:11 World

Israeli Protesters Mass in Jerusalem to Call for Elections

Thousands of Israelis took to the streets of Jerusalem on Monday to call for elections and the immediate return of hostages held in Gaza in a demonstration that followed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent decision to dissolve his war cabinet.

The protest outside the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, highlighted the competing pressures the Israeli prime minister is under from conflicting elements of Israeli society.

Last week, two relatively moderate members resigned from the emergency war cabinet Mr. Netanyahu formed in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas-led assault on Israel, citing differences over the conduct of the war against Hamas in Gaza. Far-right members of Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition called on him to appoint them to the war cabinet, but on Sunday, according to Israeli officials, the prime minister communicated to ministers at a wider cabinet meeting that he was dissolving the body instead.

In the crowd in front of the Knesset on Monday was Yair Lapid, the opposition leader in Parliament, video posted on social media showed. Some of the marchers carried a banner stating that they were “leading the nation to the day after,” a reference to the end of the war in Gaza.

An Israeli police statement said that the police had helped facilitate the rally near the Knesset, and no arrests were immediately reported there.

However, confrontations appear to have been more intense when some protesters broke off to march to Mr. Netanyahu’s home in Jerusalem, breaching a police roadblock. Anti-government activists have regularly gathered there throughout the war.

The activists chanted, “You are the chief, you are to blame” in front of the prime minister’s residence. Photographs showed some of them gathered around an open fire. Water cannons were fired, and at least nine people were arrested. The Israeli police said in a statement that some of the protesters had attacked officers, slightly injuring some of them.

The Israel Police said it would “continue to allow legal freedom of expression and protest but will not allow violations of public order and riots,” noting the fire.

The protests this week by anti-government activists are not connected to Saturday night rallies held weekly in Tel-Aviv and organized by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, which represents the relatives of hostages held in Gaza. That group held a separate conference in Sderot on Monday on their efforts to bring the hostages home.

The anti-government activists are planning another protest in front of the Knesset on Tuesday.


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Last modified: 18 June 2024
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