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‘Largest’ anti-Netanyahu stir in Israel since Gaza war

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JERUSALEM: Tens of thousands of Israelis gathered outside the parliament building in Jerusalem on Sunday in the largest anti-govt demonstration since the country went to war in October. They urged the govt to reach a deal to free dozens of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza and to hold early elections.
PM Netanyahu has vowed to destroy Hamas and bring all the hostages home, yet those goals have been elusive.While Hamas has suffered heavy losses, it remains intact. Protest groups, including some that led the mass demonstrations that rocked Israel in 2023, also demanded a more equal share in the burden of army service that binds most Israelis. Around 600 soldiers have been killed so far since the Hamas attack of Oct 7 and the ensuing war in Gaza, the military’s highest casualty toll in years.
Haaretz and Ynet news sites said the protest drew tens of thousands of people, chanting “elections now”. Netanyahu has faced widespread criticism over the security failure of the Hamas attack on Israel in which 1,200 people were killed and over 250 taken hostage. “This govt is a complete and utter failure,” said a protester. “They will lead us into the abyss.”
Israel’s war in the Palestinian enclave has aggravated a longstanding source of friction in society that is also unsettling Netanyahu’s coalition govt – exemptions granted to ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary students from service in the country’s conscript military.
With a March 31 deadline looming for the govt to come up with legislation to resolve a decades-long standoff over the issue, Netanyahu filed a last-minute application to the Supreme Court last week or a 30-day deferment. The SC gave govt until April 30 to submit additional arguments. But, in an interim ruling, it also ordered a suspension of state funding for seminary students who would be liable for conscription from Monday. At a presser, Netanyahu said he was confident a solution will be found. He also said that an election at the height of war, would paralyse the country for months.

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