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Left-wing activists clash with right-wing protesters in Tel Aviv. (File Photo: Oren Ziv, via ActiveStills.org)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

Families of Israeli captives threatened that if a prisoner exchange deal with Hamas is not reached soon, “we will burn the country.”

More than a dozen protestors were arrested on Saturday after Israeli police deployed tear gas and water cannons to disperse thousands of protestors in Tel Aviv calling on the government to do more to secure the release of captives held by the Resistance in Gaza.

The Times of Israel said the protests on Saturday evening “were among the largest” since October 7. According to the paper, tens of thousands turned out for mass protests across Israel.

These protesters were then joined by those who attended the weekly demonstrations held by captives’ families in Tel Aviv after “speakers called on attendees ‘to take to the streets’ and join the anti-government protesters (..) announcing an apparent discontinuation of the separate gathering,” the paper reported.

Eli Albag, the father of one of the captives, reportedly said there would be no more separate protests at Hostages Square in front of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

“This is the last Shabbat that we will be here,” he is quoted by the paper as saying. “We won’t meet here anymore, we will be in the streets… this is the moment where we turn off the lights.”

Netanyahu Blamed

In a message to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum spokesman Haim Rubinstein said on X: “The rallies are over, the protests have begun.”

In another report, families of Israeli captives threatened that if a prisoner exchange deal with Hamas is not reached soon, “we will burn the country.”

The families held a news conference in Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Square and said that “there is a deal on the table that can be made,” the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported, according to the Anadolu news agency.

They refused to stand or plead, threatening to “burn the country” if a deal was not reached, the daily reportedly said.

The families and thousands of protesters chanted: “Agree now,” according to the daily.

Earlier on Saturday, the families blamed Netanyahu for impeding negotiations.

According to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, the families said in a statement outside the Ministry of Defense headquarters in Tel Aviv that “Netanyahu leaves them no choice, as he rejects proposals and takes a hardline stance, preventing an Israeli proposal in the negotiations,” describing the premier’s behavior as “a crime and unimaginable.”

They have no choice but to work on replacing Netanyahu as soon as possible to reach an agreement with Hamas, the families said.

They urged other members of the government and its coalition partners, including ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties, to help them free their loved ones, Anadolu reported the paper as saying.

Clashes as Highway Blocked

In Jerusalem, there were clashes with police, after about 200 protestors burst through a set of police barriers as they tried to get close to Netanyahu’s residence, reported the Times of Israel.

Close by, police detained protesters calling for Netanyahu to resign, as they blocked roads near his home.

“Like in previous weeks, protesters lit a bonfire on the road, which police extinguished, only for another one to be lit,” the paper said.

Some protestors also managed to block part of a highway before police dispersed them with water cannons.

According to the paper, police said they made 16 arrests and fined nine demonstrators “for disturbances and blocking traffic.”

‘Silencing’ Anti-War Voices

Elsewhere in Jerusalem, on Saturday, at least four protestors calling for an end to Israel’s war on Gaza were arrested in a violent crackdown by police.

“The more the police want to silence public voices against the war, the more violent they become,” the left-wing Free Jerusalem movement said on X.

A journalist was also arrested, according to Israeli media reports.

In video footage shared by the movement, police officers can be seen shoving protestors and arresting them.

“They are frightened by the idea that more civilians will join the call for an end to the bombings and hunger in the Strip,” and for the return of the Israeli captives, Free Jerusalem added.

Tent Camp

Reports said the anti-government protesters have planned a series of demonstrations in Jerusalem, beginning on Sunday.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that protest leaders called on supporters to converge outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, and to set up a tent city that “will remain in place for four days.”

The protests are a call to oust the government, said Haaretz, with demonstrators expected to march to the home of Netanyahu as well.

The Israeli prime minister has been facing mounting criticism and calls to resign over what has been seen as a failure to secure a ceasefire agreement with Hamas.

Netanyahu’s popularity continues to decline, according to a recent opinion poll published by the Israeli newspaper Maariv this month.

According to the poll, 45 percent of Israelis prefer Benny Gantz, leader of the National Unity Party and current member of the War Cabinet, as prime minister, while only 38 percent think Netanyahu is still suitable for his position.

The survey also highlights a consistent decline in the Likud Party’s popularity, led by Netanyahu, similar to previous polls conducted after October 7.

Palestinians Arrested

Meanwhile, Israeli forces carried out mass arrests in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

The Palestinian news agency WAFA said 16 Palestinians were arrested as they were leaving the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Two men were arrested at Lions’ Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, reported the Al Jazeera news network.

In the West Bank, at least 25 Palestinians, including six women, were detained over a 24-hour period, beginning Friday evening.

The women were later released, reported WAFA.

The Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs Commission and the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) said the arrest campaigns focused on occupied Jerusalem and Hebron (Al Khalil).

Arrests also took place in the Jenin, Tubas, Qalqilya and Bethlehem, said WAFA.

Masafer Yatta Arrests

Israeli forces also detained a Palestinian mother and her daughter while they were herding sheep in the town of Masafer Yatta, south of Hebron.

Muhammad Rabi, the head of the Al-Tuwanah Village Council in Musafer Yatta, said that a large Israeli force detained Subha Al-Adra and her daughter Sanaa while they were herding sheep near their home in the village of Al-Tuwanah.

Following their detention, the mother along with her daughter were transferred to the Susiya illegal settlement, reported WAFA.

Rabi said Israeli forces have been escalating their attacks against Palestinians and their proprieties in Masafer Yatta. These include the demolition of barns and homes.

The arrests bring the total number of Palestinians detained since October 7 to about 7895, including those who were detained from their homes, at military checkpoints, those who surrendered under pressure and those who were taken as hostages, said WAFA.

(PC, WAFA, ANADOLU)

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