A smaller group of anti-government protesters defied a crackdown on anti-war voices and demanded a ceasefire.
Thousands of people have rallied in Tel Aviv, asking for the release of Israeli and foreign captives being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and criticising the Israeli government for the way it is dealing with the crisis.
Many of the protesters on Saturday were friends and family members of the captives and demanded their immediate return.
“Mr Prime Minister, cabinet members, do not talk to me about conquering, do not talk to me about flattening [Gaza]. Do not talk at all. Just take action … bring them home now,” Noam Perry, whose father was abducted from the town of Nir Oz, told the crowd at the protest, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.
“They ask us who our rage is directed at and it is all of humanity … but mainly, those who are responsible for us, those who have a contract with us,” said Jack Levy, another protester.
More than 240 people, including Israeli soldiers and civilians as well as foreigners, were abducted during an attack on southern Israel on October 7 that authorities say killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians.
A few hundred Israeli left-wing activists, both Arab and Jewish, held a separate demonstration near the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv, calling for a ceasefire despite an ongoing crackdown on anti-war voices and protests.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected the idea of any ceasefire “without the return of our hostages”. The United States has advocated instead for “humanitarian pauses” to allow civilians to flee and for aid delivery.
More than 11,000 Palestinians, including more than 4,500 children, have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched a campaign of air strikes on October 7, followed by a devastating ground offensive that has brought the fighting to some of Gaza City’s main hospitals.
In remarks on Saturday, Netanyahu ruled out a role for the Palestinian Authority (PA) government in Gaza once the war against Hamas is over.
“There will have to be something else there,” he said when asked whether the PA, which has partial administrative control in the occupied West Bank, may govern Gaza after the war.
“There won’t be a civilian authority that educates their children to hate Israel, to kill Israelis, to wipe out the state of Israel,” Netanyahu said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month that the PA should retake control of the Gaza Strip from Hamas, with international players potentially filling a role in the interim.