Israel protesters block major highway over Gaza captives’ deaths

The protesters lit fires outside the Ministry of Defence building in Tel Aviv [Getty]

Hundreds of Israelis protested near the defence ministry in Tel Aviv on Monday night, blocking a major highway, in a “spontaneous” action after the Israeli military announced that four captives held by Hamas in Gaza had died.

The protesters blocked traffic and lit a fire on the Ayalon Highway, demanding an immediate deal for the release of remaining Israeli captives held by Hamas, according to The Times of Israel.

Protests also took place in several other cities, including Jerusalem, Haifa, Rehovot, and Pardes Hanna-Karkur.

Hamas is believed to be still holding some 120 Israeli hostages captured on October 7, of whom 41 are now believed to have died. It freed 105 during a week-long truce last November.

Israel’s indiscriminate war on Gaza which began on October 7 has devastated the territory and killed at least 36,550 Palestinians, mostly women and children.

The dead hostages were identified by the Israeli military as Chaim Peri, 79, Amiram Cooper, 84, Yoram Metzger, 80, and Nadav Popplewell, 51.

“Haim, Yoram, Amiram and Nadav were kidnapped alive, some of them were with other hostages who returned in the previous deal, and they should have come home alive to their country and their families,” the statement said.

It pointed out that the four hostages were seen alive in Hamas videos after October 7 and called on the Israeli government to immediately accept a deal proposed by US President Joe Biden on Friday which would see remaining Israeli captives released and Israeli troops withdraw from the Gaza Strip.

Continued disputes over deal

While Biden initially said that the deal was proposed by Israel, the Netanyahu government has not endorsed it with extreme-right ministers Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich threatening to bring down the government if the deal goes through.

The two extremist leaders have said that the deal would end the war in Gaza without achieving Israel’s proclaimed war aim of |”destroying Hamas”.

Since Biden announced the deal, Netanyahu has said that there would be “no permanent ceasefire” in Gaza before the destruction of Hamas.

While Hamas has already said that it viewed Biden’s proposal “positively”, US officials claim that it has not yet accepted the deal.

Qatari mediation continues

On Monday, Biden spoke with Qatar Emir Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, whose government has been involved in mediation efforts between Israel and Hamas and urged him to secure Hamas’s acceptance of the deal.

A White House statement said that Biden had “confirmed Israel’s readiness to move forward with the terms that have now been offered to Hamas,” Reuters reported.

Qatar on Tuesday stressed that there should be a clear position from both parties to reach a ceasefire deal.

“We are waiting for a clear Israeli position that represents the entire government in response to the US’s Gaza proposal,” Qatari foreign ministry spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari said.

“The ceasefire deal should immediately end the long-suffering of all people in Gaza and the hostages and their families and provide a roadmap for a permanent ceasefire and an end to the crisis”, Al-Ansari added.

Reuters contributed to this report

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