War in the Middle East: Israel: Thousands demonstrate for the release of hostages

Thousands of people demonstrated in Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities for the release of hostages held by the Islamist Hamas and against the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

War in the Middle East: Israel: Thousands demonstrate for the release of hostages

Thousands of people demonstrated in Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities for the release of hostages held by the Islamist Hamas and against the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Relatives of the hostages held in the Gaza Strip called for a new hostage deal and called on the government to act quickly. Several demonstrations spread across Tel Aviv and blocked the coastal metropolis's central traffic arteries.

At some rallies there were chaotic scenes between police and demonstrators. In some places, people set small fires, set off smoke bombs and chanted for the hostages to be released. The police also used water cannons to break up individual gatherings. The important Ajalon city highway was also blocked at times.

Relatives of the hostages kidnapped in the Gaza Strip accuse Netanyahu and his government of not doing enough to secure their release. "Our prime minister has forgotten that he is also the prime minister of 134 hostages," said a relative at a rally. "They're out of time, we're out of time. Do something now, we need you!"

Elsewhere, several thousand people demonstrated against the Netanyahu government and called for early elections. On a large screen, they played a video excerpt from the speech of US Senator Chuck Schumer, who said he believed early elections were in Israel's interest. A group of war veterans set up a dummy tank in front of the military headquarters in Tel Aviv.

Hundreds of people also gathered in front of President Izchak Herzog's residence in Jerusalem. Dozens of demonstrators blocked streets there and, according to media reports, were dragged off the street by police.

Israel's military chief: We are in a multi-front war

According to Chief of the General Staff Herzi Halevi, Israel is in a multi-front war. Any event or incident on one of the fronts could impact other regions and provoke a reaction there, Halevi said during a visit to border police in the West Bank on Friday. The Israeli army only published the military chief's words on Saturday. In view of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, all security forces are particularly vigilant, he emphasized.

In this context, Halevi mentioned Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, Gaza and “even further away”. The focus of the army and all other forces should be on the entire Ramadan period and on all fronts. "This week there have already been several attempted attacks in different locations and the challenge is to guard the entire month and beyond, because it doesn't end with Ramadan, but we are more active this month," he said Halevi.

Shots near Hebron in the West Bank

After shooting near the West Bank city of Hebron, Israeli soldiers killed an armed Palestinian, according to military sources. The attacker opened fire not far from an Israeli settlement area, the army said. Soldiers nearby then “neutralized” the armed man. There were initially no reports of injuries. The armed wing of the Islamist Hamas, the Qassam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Video footage circulated on social media showing the man opening fire from a cemetery before being shot dead by soldiers. According to media reports, alarm sirens sounded in the residential area. The military said it continued to search the area around the city of Hebron.

Organization: First ship with relief supplies completely unloaded

After the first aid shipment arrived by sea, almost 200 tons of food have been brought ashore for the suffering population in the Gaza Strip. “The entire shipment has been unloaded and is being prepared for distribution on the coast of Gaza,” said World Central Kitchen (WCK), an organization involved in the mission, upon request. The ship "Open Arms" set sail from the Cypriot port of Larnaca on Tuesday and reached the waters off the Gaza coast on Friday.

The organization, founded by US-based Spanish celebrity chef José Andrés, is currently preparing another ship in Larnaca with aid supplies for Gaza, WCK said in a statement. It will transport 240 tons of food. It is not yet clear when the trip will begin.

Report: Houthi representatives met with Hamas

According to a media report, high-ranking representatives of the Houthi militia in Yemen met with members of Hamas. The Lebanese TV station Al-Majadin reported that the aim was to coordinate the groups and prepare for a possible expansion of the escalation during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. The Houthis and Hamas belong to the so-called Axis of Resistance, a network of groups fighting against Israel that are supported by Iran.

According to the report, representatives of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) also attended the meeting. Like Hamas, both groups were involved in the massacre in Israel on October 7th last year.

The Houthis have been increasingly attacking merchant ships in the Red Sea for several months - according to their own statements out of solidarity with Hamas, which rules in the Gaza Strip. They direct their attacks on freighters with alleged connections to Israel, the USA or Great Britain. At the meeting, the Houthis assured that they would continue their attacks on militia targets in Yemen despite attacks by the USA and Great Britain, the pro-Iranian television station also reported. It was also about preparing for a possible Israeli offensive in Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip.