JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Police hold back protesters outside Israeli prime minister’s residence Saturday, amid widespread anger over failures that led to last month’s deadly attack by Hamas gunmen on communities around the Gaza Strip.
Waving blue and white Israeli flags and chanting “Prison now!” “, a crowd of several hundred people broke through police barriers around Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem.
The protest, which coincided with a poll showing more than three-quarters of Israelis think Netanyahu should resign, underscored growing public fury against their political and security leaders.
Netanyahu has so far failed to accept personal responsibility for the failures that enabled the surprise assault that saw hundreds of Hamas gunmen storm into southern Israel on October 7, killing more than 1,400 people and taking at least 240 hostage.
As the initial shock faded, public anger grew, with many families of hostages held in Gaza bitterly criticizing the government’s response and calling for their loved ones to be repatriated.
In Tel Aviv, thousands of people demonstrated, waving flags and holding photographs of some of Gaza’s prisoners and posters with slogans such as “Release the hostages now at all costs”, while crowds chanted “bring back them at home now.”
Ofri Bibas-Levy, whose brother, along with her four-year-old son Ariel and 10-month-old son Kfir, were taken hostage by Hamas, told Reuters she had come to show his support for his family.
“We don’t know where they are, we don’t know in what condition they are being kept. I don’t know if Kfir is getting food, I don’t know if Ariel is getting enough food. She’s a very small baby ” said Bibas-Levy.
Since the attack, Israel has launched an intense air and ground offensive in Gaza, killing more than 9,000 people, according to health authorities in the Hamas-controlled area, and reducing large areas of the enclave to ruins.
Even before the war, Netanyahu was a divisive figure, battling accusations of corruption, which he denies, and pushing through a plan to curb the powers of the justice system that brought hundreds of thousands of people down in the streets to protest.
On Saturday, a poll by Israeli television station Channel 13 found that 76% of Israelis thought Netanyahu, currently serving a record sixth term as prime minister, should resign and 64% thought the country should hold elections immediately after the war.
When asked who was most responsible for the attack, 44% of Israelis blamed Netanyahu, while 33% blamed the military chief of staff and senior IDF officials and 5% blamed the Minister of Defense, according to the poll.
(Reporting by Emily Rose; editing by Ros Russell and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)