Relatives of hostages questioned by police, told to avoid anti-government rallies

Sister of Matan Zangauker and nephew of Avraham Munder summoned to Tel Aviv station, released on condition that they not participate in ‘illegal’ rallies for 15 days

Natalie Zangauker, center, joins demonstrators calling for the release of Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip outside Hakirya Base in Tel Aviv, May 1, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Natalie Zangauker, center, joins demonstrators calling for the release of Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip outside Hakirya Base in Tel Aviv, May 1, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Two relatives of hostages held in the Gaza Strip were questioned under criminal suspicion by police Wednesday, then released on condition that they do not attend illegal demonstrations, a move that excludes them from the large anti-government protests held weekly in various locations around the country.

Natalie Zangauker, sister of Matan Zangauker, 24, and Shahar Mor Zahiro, nephew of Avraham Munder, 78, were grilled at a central Tel Aviv police station, according to the two and their attorneys. The summons came days after the two were involved in highly charged confrontations with police during a rally calling for a deal to free hostages held in Gaza for over 200 days and for the dissolution of the government and new elections.

It marked the first time that relatives of hostages have been formally questioned by police, though in the past family of hostages have been briefly detained at demonstrations on behalf of the captives or against the government, and then released.

Some families, frustrated that after nearly seven months of war their loved ones are still in captivity, have turned against the government, speaking out publicly against the country’s leaders.

Zahiro, 52, was questioned during the morning and Zangauker, 19, later in the day, according to Hebrew media reports. By the time Zangauker arrived for her interview a crowd of some 20 protesters had gathered at the police station, including her mother Einav, and Labor MKs Gilad Kariv and Naama Lazimi. Lazimi has accused the police of roughing her up and of mistreating Zangauker at the Monday night rally.

Einav Zangauker was denied entry to accompany her daughter, as were the two lawmakers initially despite their parliamentary rights. Lazimi later reported that she and Kariv were allowed to enter the station to see Zangauker.

The Monday night rally in central Tel Aviv descended into chaotic clashes between protesters and police, who accused demonstrators of disrupting public order and attacking cops. Five people were arrested and water cannons were deployed by police as demonstrators lit a bonfire on Tel Aviv’s Begin Road, near the IDF’s headquarters, and marched toward Likud party headquarters.

Demonstrators accused police of using excessive force.

The two relatives were released on condition that they do not attend any “illegal demonstrations” for the next 15 days, according to statements from Zahiro and from Zangauker’s attorney.

Both Zangaukers wore matching t-shirts with Matan’s face printed on the front. Addressing the crowd outside the police station, Einav Zangauker declared “the government is hostile to us.”

“Unfortunately, not only Hamas bullies us, the Israeli government also bullies us,” she said referring to the Palestinian terror group that led the devastating October 7 attack on Israel during which hundreds of hostages were taken captive in the Gaza Strip.

She accused police of using “unreasonable violence and force against us, the families of the hostages, and against citizens who fight with us for the return of the hostages.”

“I will not be deterred and I will not stop fighting for my son’s life and for the return of all the hostages to the last of them,” she vowed. “I will not let any factor in this country intimidate me or bully me.”

Later Wednesday evening, Natalie Zangauker participated in a Tel Aviv demonstration that blocked a highway in Tel Aviv.

Zahiro also accused the government of scare tactics, saying it was “trying to intimidate us via Ben Gvir, to suppress our protests, make us domestic enemies. It will not happen.” He was referring to far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who is responsible for the police force.

“I don’t know why they called me in for questioning; apparently for political reasons,” Zahiro said. “They will not silence all of us, we will continue to say what needs to be said.”

Screen capture from video of Shahar Mor Zahiro outside the central Tel Aviv police station, May 1, 2024. (X. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Zangauker was questioned under caution on suspicion of assaulting a police officer, disturbing public order, and reckless use of fire. During her questioning, police also took a saliva DNA sample, Channel 12 reported.

The suspicions related to an altercation with a police officer during the Monday demonstration in which she was reportedly accused of wielding a lit flare against police.

During a scuffle with police over the object a policeman was burned and required medical treatment.

Haaretz reported that Zahiro was questioned on vandalism charges for spraying “Bibi is a murderer” on a wall, using the prime minister’s nickname.

Kariv posted images from the scene at the police station on his X account, writing, “One of the major low moments of the Israel Police in the last six months, and actually since the day of its establishment”

Einav and Natalie Zangauker, he wrote, are “waiting for a pointless investigation and intimidation directed against Natalie.”

Lazimi also commented about the incident with a post to her X account.

“Natalie was released. The shame remains,” wrote Lazimi, who had earlier accused police of ripping a poster of Matan Zangauker from Natalie Zangauker’s hands and laughing at her.

Most Popular
read more: