Anti-government protesters erect ‘tent city’ outside Knesset demanding hostage release and election

The activists are planning four days of action to force Netanyahu to call an election and agree to a ceasefire in Gaza


Protesters blocking Jerusalem's Begin Highway during an anti-government protest outside the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on March 31, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 *** Local Caption *** ??????? ???? ???? ????? ????? ????? ????

Anti-government protesters gathered at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament in Jerusalem on Sunday night, demanding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resign and agree to early elections over his failure to end the war in Gaza.

Thousands of activists pitched tents outside the parliament building, saying they are refusing to leave until Netanyahu agrees to elections.

The Sunday demonstration, which kicked off large-scale, multi-day protests in Israel’s capital, also urged Netanyahu to accept a hostages-for-ceasefire agreement with Hamas.

The gathering was organised by a coalition of groups, including Brothers in Arms and the Kaplan Force, that previously coordinated protests against the government’s now-shelved judicial reform agenda.

“The government of the destruction, which brought about the year of the disaster and the failure of Oct. 7, continues its attempts to disband the people’s army, damage the security of the state and tear the people of Israel apart,” wrote the Kaplan Force in the announcement.

“Just as we mobilized in 2023 to stop the dictatorial coup, just as we mobilized in the weeks after Oct. 7, this is the time for the people to mobilize, take to the streets and save the State of Israel,” it read.

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid Party spoke at the rally, emphasizing that he seeks to “establish another government in a few weeks. As long as we are a democracy, there is a tool that can change reality. It is called elections. Election now!” added Lapid.

Ahead of the official protest near the Knesset, activists carrying flags of Brothers in Arms descended upon ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods to demand a universal military draft, resulting in clashes with Charedi residents.

In an address to the nation earlier on Sunday, Netanyahu rejected the suggestion of holding elections during the war, saying it would paralyse hostage negotiations and bring a premature end to the war in Gaza.

“The first who welcome this is Hamas, and that says everything,” added the premier.

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