Former Prime Minister Urges Israelis To 'Besiege The Knesset' To Oust Netanyahu

This weekend has seen large tumultuous anti-Netanyahu protests in Tel Aviv led by the families of hostages and victims of Oct. 7. The families have long demanded that the government get more serious about another hostage/prisoner exchange. They've accused the prime minister of intentionally thwarting a deal for the sake of prolonging the war and in turn prolonging his hold on power.

The scene grew violent Saturday as riot police on horseback charge demonstrators in a central Tel Aviv square. Police also used water canons against the protesters. Watch some of the mayhem unfold in the below:

Netanyahu tried to calm the rising anger directed against him by a statement on X saying, "We are working to obtain another outline for the release of our hostages." He added, "That is why I sent a delegation to Paris - and tonight we will discuss the next steps in the negotiations."

Israeli media once again reports 'cautious optimism' regarding ceasefire talks, but Netanyahu has at the same time been insistent on rejecting Hamas' "delusional" conditions for a deal - most especially the demand for all Israeli forces to withdraw from the Strip.

At least 21 people were arrested in Saturday's demonstration, with some injuries among the protesters also reported. It's a sign that such demonstrations are about to get more violent.

Relatives of the kidnap victims believe a deal is realistic and obtainable, and have held out hope of their loved ones being returned to Israel. There's still over one hundred Israelis held in Gaza - though many could be deceased at this point.

On Sunday, the country's former prime minister Ehud Barak added fuel to the anti-Netanyahu fire, however, by urging an escalation in protests until Netanyahu is forced to step down. According to Al Jazeera:

Ehud Barak says Israelis need to protest outside their parliament "day and night" to help bring an end to Netanyahu’s rule.

Barak, who served as Israel’s prime minister from 1999 to 2001, added that demonstrations should go on "until Netanyahu understands that his time is up and the public no longer trusts him".

“When the state is shut down, Netanyahu will realize his time is up," he told Army Radio, as reported by the Jerusalem Post newspaper.

In Sunday comments Netanyahu said his cabinet is mulling various options for Rafah, and said if a deal can be reached with Hamas the assault will be delayed. However he warned that if there is no deal, then a full-scale ground offensive will proceed. Earlier comments by Israeli officials suggested a timeframe of early March for an attack, as the US has continued to pressure the military to allow Gaza civilians to evacuate first.

There are an estimated 1.5 million - mostly internally displaced civilians - in Rafah currently, after most were pushed out of their homes in the north amid the Israeli operation that began after the Oct.7 terror attack by Hamas.

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