Israeli police arrest dozens as hostage families continue protests

Demonstrations were held across Israel as those rescued in the operation said they watched protests from Gaza

Israeli protesters call for a hostage release and demonstrate against the government in Tel Aviv, on June 8. Bloomberg
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Israeli police arrested 33 people in Tel Aviv on Saturday night as demonstrators called for a hostage release deal, hours after four hostages were rescued from Gaza.

Relatives of the freed hostages, Noa Argamani, Almog Meir Jan, Andrey Kozlov and Shlomi Ziv joined thousands of protesters in the city's so-called Hostage Square where the names of the 120 remaining hostages were read out amid calls for their release.

An elderly man, at the protests as a volunteer paramedic, was dragged away by police as officers used water cannons on demonstrators outside the Defence Ministry headquarters, local media reported.

Other demonstrations were held across Israel, including in Haifa, Jerusalem and Beersheba.

Protests demanding a ceasefire deal and hostage release have become weekend fixtures in Israel, attracting thousands of people.

The relatives of Israeli hostages have spearheaded the demonstrations, some of which have been held outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem and his home in Caesarea.

Saturday's rescue operation was met with street celebrations in Israel. Meanwhile, protests for a hostage deal resumed with fervour after freed hostages told their families they were aware of the street demonstrations calling for their release.

Nuseirat bloodshed

However, Israel has also been widely rebuked for its strikes on Nuseirat during the operation, which Gaza's Health Ministry said killed at least 274 people and injured almost 700 others. Israeli forces allegedly used humanitarian aid lorries to disguise soldiers entering the camp.

“We were surprised by heavy gunfire and heavy belts,” one woman told Palestinian media.

“I collected my son's body parts with my own hands. My second child, I don't know if he is between life or death.”

The rescue comes as negotiations continue on a ceasefire deal to end the war in Gaza, where more than 36,800 people have been killed and another 83,680 wounded since October, according to Palestinian authorities.

War cabinet minister Benny Gantz cancelled a press conference scheduled for Saturday evening after the rescues. He was widely expected to announce his resignation over Mr Netanyahu's failure to present a “day after” plan for postwar government in Gaza.

Last month, he threatened to withdraw his party from the government coalition if Mr Netanyahu did not present a plan by June 8 and said the Prime Minister was dealing with “zealots” – referring to right-wing cabinet members including Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich.

Both men have advocated for Israelis to re-settle Gaza and have opposed efforts to end the war.

On Saturday, Mr Netanyahu, who has been widely criticised by the families of hostages and Israelis killed on October 7, was filmed meeting with the freed captives at a hospital in Tel Aviv.

“We didn't give up on you for one moment,” he told Noa Argamani, who was later reunited with her terminally ill mother at Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital.

The meeting prompted some to criticise the Prime Minister for not meeting with other families, including those still with relatives in Gaza.

On Saturday, the son of a hostage killed in captivity rebuked Mr Netanyahu for failing to secure his release.

“Dad, I want to ask for your forgiveness for our collective failure, from the Prime Minister of Israel to the last of its citizens, to free you and your friends from captivity,” Rotem Cooper, the son of Amiram Cooper, was quoted as saying in a statement released by the Hostage Families' Forum.

“The role of responsible and courageous leadership is to initiate and create opportunities that could have led to your release, as well as many others, in advance, but sadly this was not the case.”

Updated: June 09, 2024, 1:56 PM