Hostage's sister: Netanyahu doesn't want to reach a deal

Police, protesters scuffle outside PM’s home as anti-government rally turns chaotic

Daughter-in-law of hostage dragged by police outside Netanyahu’s private home; police arrest five demonstrators during scattered marches throughout Jerusalem

Police forcefully removing Ayala Metzger, the daughter-in-law of Yoram Metzger, 80, being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza (Gil Levin / Israeli Pro-Democracy Protest Movement) and protesters march toward the residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Azza Street in Jerusalem, April 2, 2024. (Eitan Schley / Israeli Pro-Democracy Protest Movement)

The third day of a four-day anti-government demonstration in Jerusalem descended into chaos on Tuesday night when marchers attempting to bypass police barricades split into multiple directions in order to reach the private residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The march began with a series of speeches outside the Knesset given by family members of the hostages, anti-government activists and former prime minister Ehud Barak — a vocal critic of Netanyahu.

Though the procession from the Knesset began as a unified mass of people led by relatives of the hostages and veteran activists who rose to prominence last year amid Israel’s since-paused judicial overhaul, it fragmented when its thousands of marchers flooded the narrow streets of Jerusalem’s wealthy Rehavia neighborhood where the Netanyahus live.

The rally was planned as part of a series of protests in Jerusalem over the course of four consecutive days, organized jointly by anti-Netanyahu activists and central family members in the Hostages and Missing Families Forum. On Saturday night, a portion of the forum announced that they would discontinue separate weekly Saturday night protests and join forces with anti-government activists who had held rival weekly demonstrations.

After encountering barricades, a handful of protesters with megaphones ran to the front of the march and successfully directed a large contingent of the crowd to take a detour to Netanyahu’s home on Azza Street, catching law enforcement off-guard.

Organizers urged participants to run as quickly as they could to evade crowd control measures. Israel Police called this stage of the march an “unbridled riot.”

Upon reaching Azza Street, Ayala Metzger, daughter-in-law of Hamas-held hostage Yoram Metzger, sat down with several people inside a playground across the street from Netanyahu’s home, but was quickly dragged to the side by police after authorities apparently demanded that protesters clear the area.

Police arrested five demonstrators throughout the night and opened an investigation into the throwing of a burning torch at a mounted officer.

Another police officer was admitted to the hospital for an injury sustained by a protester who threw a crowd control fence at him.

An activist is dragged from a playground by police during an anti-government protest outside the Prime Minister’s home in Jerusalem on April 2, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

A group of police were also filmed severely beating a demonstrator carrying a drum in the middle of the street.

Outside Netanyahu’s home, one demonstrator lay down underneath a police water cannon for an extended period, stopping it in its tracks and preventing law enforcement from deploying it against protesters. Police sprayed him with foul-smelling skunk liquid and then pulled him out from under the vehicle to take him into custody.

Police in Jerusalem try to push back people in a protesting against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and for the release of the hostages on April 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

In response to the protests outside Netanyahu’s residence, far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir — who holds authority over the police — accused the Shin Bet of ignoring threats to the prime minister.

“A situation in which thousands of people break through barriers near the prime minister’s home and the Shin Bet turns a blind eye is unacceptable,” he tweeted.

People march in Jerusalem to protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and call for the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip, April 2, 2024. (AP/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Among the hundreds protesting outside Netanyahu’s home was also Einav Zangauker, the mother of Hamas-held hostage Matan Zangauker and one of the main speakers outside the Knesset.

Earlier that evening, Zangauker decried Netanyahu as “Pharaoh who inflicts on us the plague of the firstborn.”

“As long as my Matan has no day or night, neither will you,” she said in a speech directed at Netanyahu, whom she once backed at the ballot box until becoming disillusioned by the aftermath of October 7 when Hamas slaughtered some 1,200 Israelis and took 253 hostage.

“You failed on October 7 in every possible way… you are an obstacle to a hostage deal,” she declared, accusing Netanyahu of smearing her and other relatives of the hostages.

Einav Zangauker, the mother of Hamas-held hostage Matan Zangauker, gives impromptu speech outside of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s private residence on April 2, 2024. (Charlie Summers/Times of Israel)

“You call us traitors when it is you who is a traitor — a traitor to your people, your voters and the State of Israel,” she said. Netanyahu has not called any of the hostage families traitors but some of his most fervent supporters have.

Another section of the rally continued on to Paris Square, and at least one group found its way to the nearby Talbieh neighborhood, bypassing the normal rally spot at the intersection, banging drums and blowing horns in an outpouring of anger against Netanyahu and the government.

The divided protests later reunited outside the President’s Residence, but at this point many of the hostage family members had left the scene, leaving a group of activists from Israel’s Pirate Party to guide the remaining hundreds of people deeper into Jerusalem’s residential neighborhoods with a giant float.

Protesters atop a giant float call for a hostage deal in front of the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on April 2, 2024. (Charlie Summers/Times of Israel)

The young group of activists pulled the giant haphazard float on wheels while shouting for a hostage deal and an end to the war, intermittently singing John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance.” The protest lost most of its momentum at around midnight after protesters returned to Azza Street and were met by police with more skunk spray.

Outside the Knesset earlier in the evening, protesters heard fiery speeches from many members of the hostage families who recently joined forces with anti-government activists after reaching the conclusion that the country’s leadership has become an obstacle to a deal.

Merav Svirsky, the sister of murdered hostage Itay Svirsky, lambasted Netanyahu for not granting the Israeli delegation tasked with negotiations a full mandate to reach a deal.

“Bibi is playing politics on the backs of the hostage families,” she said. “It’s not that he failed to return them [the hostages], it’s not that he’s unable. It’s that he doesn’t want to, and thus the prime minister has to step down immediately.”

Also speaking at the event was former prime minister Barak, who led the thousands of demonstrators gathered outside the Knesset in chants calling for elections to replace Netanyahu.

Former prime minister Ehud Barak calls for new elections to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at an anti-government protest outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on April 2, 2024. (Charlie Summers/Times of Israel)

Barak derided the current government as “stumbling and confused” and argued that a ground offensive currently being planned for Rafah would further endanger the hostages.

“Netanyahu is sacrificing the hostages on the altar of ‘total victory,'” he said to the crowd.

The former premier also called on the Histadrut labor union to throw its full support behind the demonstrations in order to bring about a “shutdown of the entire country.”

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