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‘Jail now!’ Protesters mass outside Israeli PM Netanyahu’s house

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Police held back protesters outside the residence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday (4 November), amid widespread anger at the failures that led to last month’s deadly attack by Hamas gunmen on communities around the Gaza Strip.

Waving blue and white Israeli flags and chanting “Jail now!”, a crowd in the hundreds pushed through police barriers around Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem.

The protest, which coincided with a poll showing more than three quarters of Israelis believe Netanyahu should resign, underlined the growing public fury at their political and security leaders.

Netanyahu has so far not accepted personal responsibility for the failures that allowed the surprise assault which saw hundreds of Hamas gunmen storm into southern Israel on 7 October, killing more than 1,400 people and taking at least 240 hostage.

As the initial shock has faded, public anger has grown, with many families of the hostages held in Gaza bitterly critical of the government response and calling for their relatives to be brought home.

In Tel Aviv, thousands demonstrated, waving flags and holding photographs of some of the captives in Gaza and posters with slogans like “Release the hostages now at all costs” while crowds chanted, “bring them home now”.

Ofri Bibas-Levy, whose brother, along with his four-year-old son Ariel and 10-month-old son Kfir were taken hostage by Hamas, told Reuters that she came to show support for her family.

“We don’t know where they are, we don’t know what condition they are kept in. I don’t know if Kfir is getting food, I don’t know if Ariel is getting enough food. He is a very small baby,” said Bibas-Levy.

Since the attack, Israel has launched an intense air and ground offensive in Gaza, killing more than 9,000 people, health authorities in the Hamas-run area say, and reducing large areas of the enclave to rubble.

Even before the war, Netanyahu had been a divisive figure, fighting corruption charges, which he denies, and pushing through a plan to curb the powers of the judiciary that brought hundreds of thousands to the streets to protest.

On Saturday, a poll for Israel’s Channel 13 Television found 76% of Israelis thought Netanyahu, now serving a record sixth term as prime minister, should resign and 64% saying the country should hold an election immediately after the war.

When asked who is most at fault for the attack, 44% of Israelis blamed Netanyahu, while 33% blamed the military chief of staff and senior IDF officials and 5% blamed the Defense Minister, according to the poll.

Heavy civilian toll

Palestinian news agency WAFA said the Israeli military attacked a Gaza refugee camp on Saturday, killing 51 people, mostly women and children, as calls for a ceasefire by the Arab world were rejected by the United States and Israel.

WAFA said the Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip had been hit by an Israeli bombardment on Saturday night.

Reuters could not independently verify the WAFA report.

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Israel says it is targeting Hamas, not civilians, and that the militant group is using residents as human shields.

A spokesperson for the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, Ashraf al-Qidra, said a large number of people were killed in the attack, without giving a figure, and scores severely injured were taken to hospital.

Gaza health officials said on Saturday more than 9,488 Palestinians have been killed in the war, which began when Hamas fighters launched a surprise attack on southern Israel on 7 October, killing 1,400 people and taking more than 240 others hostage.

Protests around the world

With the death toll in Gaza mounting, pro-Palestinian demonstrators staged protests in cities around the world on Saturday, calling for an end to the nearly month-old war.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators staged protests on Saturday in cities including London, Berlin, Paris, Istanbul, Jakarta and Washington, demanding a ceasefire.

Tens of thousands gathered in Washington to denounce President Joe Biden’s war policy and demand a ceasefire. Some carried posters reading “Palestinian Lives Matter”, “Let Gaza Live” and “Their blood is in on your hands”.

In Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told tens of thousands gathered in Jakarta on Sunday that the government reaffirmed its support for the struggle of the Palestinian people and would send a second shipment of aid.

Concerns over West Bank

Worsening violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank has fuelled concerns that the flashpoint Palestinian territory could become a third front in a wider war – in addition to Israel’s northern border, where clashes with Lebanese Hezbollah forces have mounted.

“This has been a serious problem that’s only worsened since the conflict,” US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said, adding that he raised it on Friday in his meetings with Israeli officials. “Perpetrators must be held accountable.”

Foreign ministers from Qatar, Saudi, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates met Blinken in Amman on Saturday and pushed for Washington to persuade Israel to agree to a ceasefire.

“This war is just going to produce more pain for Palestinians, for Israelis, and this is going to push us all again into the abyss of hatred and dehumanisation,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said in a press conference with Blinken. “So that needs to stop.”

However, the top US diplomat dismissed the idea of a ceasefire, saying it would only benefit Hamas, allowing the Islamist Palestinian group to regroup and attack again.

Washington had proposed localised pauses in fighting to allow in humanitarian aid and for people to leave the densely populated Gaza Strip. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected this when he met Blinken on Friday in Tel Aviv.

Blinken will visit Turkey on Sunday for talks on the conflict. It is his second trip to the region since the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict reignited.

(Edited by Georgi Gotev)

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