Thousands block highways, rally outside ministers’ homes to demand elections

‘Day of disruption’ marks 9 months since October 7; at least 1 protester hurt after clash with police, 5 held for blocking roads; activists urge labor leader to call strike

Protesters stand on the road during a 'day of disruption' anti-government protest marking nine months since the October 7 massacre, at the Rosh Pina junction in northern Israel, July 7, 2024. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Protesters stand on the road during a 'day of disruption' anti-government protest marking nine months since the October 7 massacre, at the Rosh Pina junction in northern Israel, July 7, 2024. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Thousands of Israelis took to the streets nationwide on Sunday to demand new elections as the country marked nine months since the brutal October 7 Hamas onslaught, with nearly half the people abducted on that day still in captivity in Gaza.

At least five people were arrested for blocking roads in Tel Aviv and one required medical treatment after clashes with police in Jerusalem.

Activists kicked off the day’s events at Kibbutz Or Haner, near the Gaza border, by releasing black and yellow balloons that were tied to signs representing the communities attacked on October 7, when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists stormed southern Israel to kill nearly 1,200 people and take 251 hostages, sparking the war in Gaza.

Sunday’s “day of disruption” commenced at 6:29 a.m., the same time the terror onslaught began on October 7, and was set to culminate in mass demonstrations outside the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv and near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s home in Jerusalem.

Some 150 companies across the country said they would be allowing employees to join the demonstrations on Sunday, which is a workday in Israel.

Protesters blocked several highways, including Routes 2, 4 and 6. Demonstrations were also held at major intersections, including Nahalal, Caesarea, Bilu and Ra’anana-Herzliya.

Anti-government protesters rallied in the morning outside the homes of several lawmakers and ministers, including those of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Foreign Minister Israel Katz, Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana, Economy Minister Nir Barkat, Transportation Minister Miri Regev, Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter and Negev and Galilee Minister Yitzhak Wasserlauf.

At Gallant’s home in Moshav Amikam, protesters shouted: “Total failure,” lampooning the government’s touted “total victory” in Gaza.

Protesters in Beersheba highlight the sexual abuse suffered by hostages on the 9-month anniversary of October 7 with signs reading ‘We are on the verge of giving birth’ on July 7, 2024 (Tanya Zion Waldoks/Pro-democracy protest groups)

Outside Ohana’s Tel Aviv home, demonstrators were heard calling: “Blood is on the hands of the right-wing government.” Channel 12 published footage from the protest showing a police officer snatching a megaphone out of the hands of Yifat Calderon, whose cousin Ofer Calderon is one of the 116 hostages seized that day who are still in Gaza.

Later in the day, several roads in the coastal city were blocked by the crowds, as thousands of protesters marched toward Kaplan Street, which has become synonymous with anti-government protests.

In north Tel Aviv, police said five protesters were arrested for disturbing the peace by staging an unauthorized demonstration at the Kfar Hayarok interchange.

Twelve others received tickets for causing public disturbances and for using their vehicles to block traffic. There were also minor confrontations between demonstrators and police at the Rokach/Namir interchange in north Tel Aviv.

In Jerusalem, scuffles erupted on Sunday morning as police cleared protesters from the light rail tracks. Footage on social media showed police officers pushing protesters and dragging one woman on the ground. According to the person who posted the video, the police arrested an activist from “Meshanim Kivun” (lit. “changing direction”), a climate-oriented protest group. Another protester was said to require medical attention after being violently shoved by police.

Protesters also gathered Sunday morning outside the Kiryat Ono home of Arnon Bar-David, head of the powerful Histadrut labor federation, calling on him to declare a general strike to demand elections. A similar rally was planned for later in the day outside the Histadrut’s offices in Tel Aviv.

In May, Bar-David said that he had lost trust in the government, but that timing was key for any drastic action to force an early election. Protesters outside his home on Sunday held signs reading, “Enough talking, it’s time for action.”

Sunday’s demonstrations were part of the “week of resistance” that protest groups kicked off at their weekly protests on Saturday evening.

Some of Israel’s leading companies, mainly from the tech and finance sectors, said they would let their workers take time off to join in Sunday’s protests, which anti-government groups announced in late June. Netzach Israel, a right-wing advocacy group, said on Sunday that it would attempt to cooperate with shareholders in pursuing legal action against the companies.

Protest groups had rallied weekly since early 2023, when the government introduced a plan to weaken the judiciary. The demonstrations were paused for a few weeks after October 7 before returning full force to call for new elections, claiming the government has a moral imperative to regain the public’s trust after failing to avert the largest massacre in the country’s history.

Anti-government demonstrators protest outside the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, July 6, 2024. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

In recent months, the central anti-government protest in Tel Aviv has taken place in conjunction with the Hostages and Missing Families Forum rally calling for the release of their loved ones. Amid the war, protest groups have also doubled down on their opposition to legislation exempting yeshiva students from military service, which critics describe as a power grab by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox coalition partners.

“Israel has been abandoned for 275 days [since October 7],” read a statement from Brothers in Arms, a reservists’ protest group.

“The government of extremists refuses to take responsibility and return the mandate to the people, to retrieve our brothers and sisters who were snatched from their home at any price, and in tandem, is legislating draft dodging,” the statement continued.

“We will carry on dogged demonstrations until the abandonment government wakes up, takes responsibility, and sets a date for elections.”

Protesters stage a sit-down, surrounded by police, at a ‘day of disruption’ anti-government demonstration in Jerusalem, July 7, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

One hundred and sixteen hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — though the IDF has confirmed the deaths of 42 of them.

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