Thousands take to the streets in Israel to call for Gaza hostage deal

Tel Aviv, July 8, (dpa/GNA) – Pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to grow at home, with thousands of protesters in the country calling on him to agree to a ceasefire deal with Hamas, to secure the release of the remaining hostages held in Gaza.

“For nine months, you have abandoned the hostages. Netanyahu – stop dragging your feet. We want them at home and it’s up to you to bring them home,” the mother of a hostage told the crowd during a protest action in Tel Aviv, the Times of Israel reported.

Einav Zangauker, whose son Matan is still held in the coastal area, addressed protesters from inside a black cage suspended from an overpass bridge.

“There is a deal on the table that can save lives, and all of us. I want Matan at home, I want all the hostages at home now,” Zangauker said.

“I want to tell Netanyahu: The keys to this cage and all the other cages are in your hands.”

Demonstrations were also held in Jerusalem amid a nationwide day of protest to mark nine months since the October 7 attacks on Israel.

Thousands of protesters marched to Netanyahu’s official residence, calling for the ongoing indirect negotiations with Hamas over a ceasefire-for-hostages deal to finally yield results. Demonstrators also called for new elections.

The talks on a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas mediated by the US, Qatar and Egypt, are expected to resume in Cairo in the coming days, after they had stalled for weeks.

The latest proposal on the table is a three-stage plan, laid out by the US weeks ago. It initially provides for a temporary ceasefire and the exchange of female, elderly and sick hostages for a larger number of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

During the temporary ceasefire, the sides are to negotiate an end to the war, and the release of the remaining hostages.

Hamas previously insisted that Israel end the war in Gaza, in return for the around 120 Israeli hostages still held by militants, but the Palestinian Islamist group recently signalled a degree of flexibility, and sent Israel a new proposal last week.

Critics of Netanyahu say he is opposing a ceasefire, in order to appease ultra-religious and far-right coalition partners, who refuse to make concessions to Hamas.

Netanyahu’s office released a list of non-negotiables late on Sunday evening, including the demand that “any deal will allow Israel to resume fighting until all of objectives of the war have been achieved.”

According to media reports, the statement immediately sparked backlash, with critics accusing the premier of trying to sabotage the ceasefire proposaö.

The non-negotiable demands listed by Netanyahu’s office also rule out “smuggling of weapons to Hamas from Egypt to the Gaza border” and the “return of thousands of armed terrorists to the northern Gaza Strip.”

Meanwhile “Israel will maximize the number of living hostages who will be released from Hamas captivity,” according to the statement.