Home News After 9 months of war, Israelis call for ceasefire, elections

After 9 months of war, Israelis call for ceasefire, elections

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Israel held nationwide anti-government protests on Sunday to mark nine months since the devastating Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack and the ensuing Gaza war, which many consider a pivotal moment in the conflict.

The protesters, who are mainly demanding a ceasefire with Hamas to free hostages held by the group and new elections in Israel, paralyzed traffic at major intersections and highways in several cities across the country in the morning. By lunchtime, much of downtown Tel Aviv was blocked in one of the largest protests in months.

In recent days, some progress has been made in restarting negotiations Preliminary Agreement Israel on Saturday struck a United Nations school in Gaza, across its northern border with Lebanon, even as fighting continued in the country after weeks of stalemate.

But many Israelis, including some of the hostages’ families, worry that the ceasefire effort could be undermined not only by Hamas but also by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. May prioritize government survival A deal that could overturn the system.

The leaders of two ultra-nationalist parties that are key members of Netanyahu’s governing coalition have threatened to overthrow the government if the prime minister agrees to a deal before Hamas is completely eliminated — a goal that many officials and experts believe is unachievable.

Protest leader Shikma Bressler said on social media that far-right parties in the ruling coalition “don’t want a deal.” postal And added earlier on Sunday: “They need the world to end.”

“What about Netanyahu?” Ms. Bressler added, referring to Mr. Netanyahu’s nickname. “He needs war so there won’t be an election.”

Israeli warplanes struck a UN school in Nusserat, central Gaza, on Saturday as the Israeli military said Palestinian militants had been operating in multiple buildings in the area. The attack killed at least 16 people and wounded dozens, according to Gaza’s health ministry, which did not distinguish between civilians and fighters. More than 37,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza so far, according to local health officials.

The Israeli Defense Ministry also said the school had become a refuge for displaced people seeking safety. Hamas called the attack a “massacre” in a statement. The Israeli military said it had taken measures to avoid civilian casualties and accused Hamas of carrying out operations in areas of Gaza where civilians gathered.

On Sunday, the Israeli military said it would continue operations in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city, and in the Shejaiya area east of Gaza City in the north. The air force also carried out a strike on the municipal building in Khan Yunis, a large southern city from which Israeli ground forces withdrew in April.

The military said Hamas was using the building for military activities. The military said civilians in the area had been evacuated before the attack.

The situation on Israel’s northern border remained volatile on Sunday, a day after Israeli warplanes carried out a deadly strike on a member of the Lebanese Hezbollah group deep inside Lebanese territory in the Baalbek region, about 40 miles northeast of Beirut.

Israel identified the target as Meitham Mustafa Altaar, and said he was a key figure in Hezbollah’s air defense wing who had been involved in numerous attacks against Israel.

About 20 rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel on Sunday, farther than most rockets have been fired in months of tit-for-tat cross-border clashes, and one man was seriously injured by shrapnel, according to Israeli emergency services.

“For the first time in months, we feel hopeful,” Einav Zangauker, whose son Matan is held in Gaza, said of the resumption of ceasefire talks during a weekly protest in Tel Aviv on Saturday night demanding the release of hostages.

But she added: “Netanyahu, we have seen time and again that you broke the deal when it mattered. Each time, our hearts broke. Don’t break our hearts again! You have a responsibility to return all the citizens you abandoned.”

Many Israelis are angry at Netanyahu for refusing to take any personal responsibility for Israeli intelligence and policy failures that led to the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks, in which 1,200 people were killed and about 250 others were taken to Gaza, according to Israeli authorities. Officials say at least a third of the 120 hostages still held in Gaza are presumed dead.

Sunday’s protests were called a nationwide “day of unrest” by organizers. The protests began at 6:29 a.m. – the same time as the Hamas attack on October 7 – with protesters ringing “wake-up calls” outside the homes of several lawmakers and ministers, including Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Several tech companies announced they would give employees time off to join the protests, with large rallies expected later in the day in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Sunday is a workday for most Israelis.

Despite recent progress in indirect engagement between Israel and Hamas through U.S. and Arab mediators, sticking points remain and a ceasefire agreement does not appear to be in sight.

The talks are based on a three-phase framework first announced by President Biden in late May and subsequently approved by the UN Security Council.

The two sides agreed on the broad outlines of a deal, including an initial six-week ceasefire and the release of the most vulnerable civilian hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. But Hamas sought assurances from Israel that it would not restart the war after some of the hostages were returned home. Israel said it needed the option to resume hostilities and would not commit to a permanent ceasefire from the outset.

Gabby Sobelman and Myra Noveck contributed to this article.

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