IDF killing of hostages sparks anti-war protests throughout Israel

By Zo Haderekh  

Tens of thousands, including the families of hostages held in Gaza, rallied December 16 in Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities to demand the government negotiate a ceasefire and prisoner exchange deal to secure the release of their loved ones. Demonstrations exploded across the country after the Israeli military shot and killed three Israeli hostages who had managed to escape captivity.

The captives, Yotam Haim, Samar Talalka, and Alon Shamriz, were killed by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) troops on December 15 in Gaza City’s Shejaiya neighborhood. The three were shot while walking toward soldiers despite carrying a white flag and yelling for help in Hebrew.

“We only receive dead bodies. We want you to stop the fight and start negotiations,” Noam Peri, daughter of hostage Haim Peri, said at the Tel Aviv rally organized by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum.

Raz Ben Ami, who was freed from Hamas captivity and whose husband, Ohad, is still being held hostage in Gaza, spoke at the December 16 rally at Tel Aviv’s “Hostages Square,” demanding that the government present a new proposal for the release of additional captives.

The news of the killing sparked protests in Israel, with some relatives of hostages fearing their loved ones could be next. Unlike previous rallies held at the recently renamed Hostages Square outside the Tel Aviv Art Museum, the stage of the December 16 demonstration was turned to face the Kirya military headquarters nearby, a move meant to highlight the organizers’ demands of the far-right government.

Following the rally, families of the hostages camped out opposite an entrance to the Kirya compound near the army headquarters.

Earlier in the evening, anti-government sentiment reverberated through the crowd of several thousand protesters at a weekly solidarity rally at Rothschild Blvd. At the rally, chants of the word “shame” spread through the crowd in response to a speech by Udi Goren, whose cousin Tal Chaimi is thought to have been abducted from Nir Yitzhak and subsequently killed in captivity.

The chants, which are emblematic of the protest movement against Netanyahu and his government’s judicial overhaul, came in response to Goren’s call for Netanyahu to declare a ceasefire.

“The fighting cannot free the hostages, it endangers them. It’s killing them,” Goren said. Addressing Netanyahu, he added: “Only a deal will prevent unnecessary deaths.”

Other rallies were held in Jerusalem, Haifa, Caesarea (near Netanyahu’s house), Netanya, Kfar Sava, Beer Sheva, Nahalal Junction, Kyriat Tivon, HaOgen Junction, Zikhron Yaacov, Arad, Hedera, Eilat, Karkur Junction, Hod Hasharon and Shoham.

Amid police pressure, the national council of the Hadash coalition (Democratic Front for Peace and Solidarity) convened December 16 at Kafr Yasif in Western Galilee for a discussion of “challenges and action plans for the forces of peace, equality, and democracy in the struggle against war and fascism.”

Hadash MKs (Members of Knesset) and Arab Higher Committee leading members participated in the meeting. After the meeting, hundreds of Hadash and Communist Party of Israel members gathered at Kafr Yasif to demand an end to the war in Gaza.

On December 15, Israeli Police arrested two peace activists and brutally dispersed an anti-war protest in Haifa. The demonstration was attended by 20 people at Herzl Street, yet many policemen were on site. “We stood there holding a legitimate protest vigil, not disturbing anyone,” said one of the detained protesters.

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