Israelis protest in West Jerusalem, Tel Aviv for prisoner swap deal

Israelis protest in West Jerusalem, Tel Aviv for prisoner swap deal

Protestors also demand early elections, cease-fire in Gaza

By Zein Khalil

JERUSALEM (AA) - Thousands of Israelis took to the streets for a third straight day on Tuesday in front of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in West Jerusalem and in front of the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, demanding early elections and a prisoner exchange deal.

The protesters, including families of the hostages held in Gaza, chanted slogans holding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responsible for the failure to reach a prisoner swap deal with the Palestinian group Hamas, according to the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

The protests intensified as Israeli negotiators returned Tuesday from Egypt after a round of talks on a prisoner exchange and cease-fire, but no tangible results were achieved.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak addressed the crowd, saying "we demand elections now,'' according to the newspaper.

He noted that it is clear to everyone that the entry of Israeli troops into the southern Gaza city of Rafah will not happen for a few weeks and may take a few months, and by then, the hostages will almost all return in coffins, it added.

Barak said that demanding elections now is an emergency call for the future.

Einav Tsinguker, the mother of Matan, who is detained in Gaza, accused Netanyahu of conducting a campaign against the families of the hostages.

"You have failed, and your hands are stained with the blood of 1,400 killed and 240 hostages,'' she said, addressing him.

Hamas, which is believed to be holding around 130 Israeli hostages, demands an end to Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip in return for any hostage deal with Tel Aviv.

A previous deal in November 2023 saw the release of 81 Israelis and 24 foreigners in exchange for 240 Palestinians, including 71 women and 169 children.

Israel has waged a deadly military offensive on the Gaza Strip since an Oct. 7 cross-border attack by Hamas which killed some 1,200 people.

More than 32,900 Palestinians have since been killed and 75,494 others injured amid mass destruction and shortages of necessities.

Israel has also imposed a crippling blockade on the Gaza Strip, leaving its population, particularly residents of northern Gaza, on the verge of starvation.

The Israeli war has pushed 85% of Gaza’s population into internal displacement amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine, while 60% of the enclave's infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which on Thursday asked it to do more to prevent famine in Gaza.

*Writing by Mohammad Sio in Istanbul

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