Middle East

Israeli police arrest relatives of Gaza hostages during Tel Aviv protest

By Lauren Izso and Niamh Kennedy, CNN

CNN  —  Two relatives of Israeli hostages abducted on October 7 were arrested during a protest outside the defense ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv Tuesday evening, according to one of the groups that participated.

Shahar Mor confirmed to CNN on Wednesday that he was arrested alongside his cousin, Barak Ben Ezra. Both men are relatives of Avraham Munder who is still being held in Gaza. Their cousins, Ohad Munder, Ruth Munder and Keren Munder, were all released by Hamas last year.

The two men were released after less than three hours of detention, they said. In a joint statement, Mor and Ezra thanked the Israeli police for “releasing us so quickly,” and said they intend to “continue our struggle.”

Protesters had gathered to voice their anger following media reports that an Israeli delegation holding indirect hostage negotiations with Hamas was leaving the talks in Qatar without a deal.

Israeli police in a statement said they cleared the protesters from Tel Aviv’s Ayalon Highway where they were blocking traffic. Four protesters were arrested for violating order and “endangering the road users,” the police said.

A representative from the Israeli Pro-Democracy Protest Movement that was involved in the demonstrations said in an update that two of the four arrested were relatives of hostages. CNN affiliate Kan also reported the arrests, saying the two were related to one hostage who was released and another who is still believed to be held in Gaza.

Hamas’ attack on October 7 killed around 1,200 Israelis, with more than 250 people taken to Gaza as hostages. Israel believes that 96 people are still being held in the enclave, along with the bodies of 34 dead hostages.

Israel’s retaliatory war on Hamas has killed more than 32,000 people in Gaza, according to the health ministry there.

Several groups have been staging anti-government protests outside the defense ministry headquarters, known as the Kirya, since the Hamas attacks. CNN has reached out to the Hostage Families Forum, which represents the captives’ families and has held protests at the site.

A man sits in a cage with portraits of 47-year-old Israeli hostage Elad Katzir, in Tel Aviv, Israel on March 26, 2024.

The Ayalon Highway, a major freeway, was reopened to traffic later in the day after police cleared the protesters.

Video of the protests showed hostage relatives trapping themselves in cages, chanting slogans such as: “Times up, go back to Qatar!”

‘Stuck but ongoing’

Three people familiar with the negotiations told CNN Wednesday that talks have reached another stalemate, but are not over.

One diplomat described the talks as “stuck but ongoing,” saying that there continue to be “proposals going back and forth.” A second source confirmed the parties are still engaged but said the negotiations are in a “pause.”

There was no breakthrough after CIA Director Bill Burns traveled to Doha late last week to meet with Israeli, Egyptian and Qatari counterparts. Burns put forward a proposal that was accepted by Israel and sent back to Hamas, the second person and an Israeli official told CNN.

On Tuesday morning Israel was informed that proposal was rejected by Hamas, the Israeli official said, and Israel decided to pull back the team of negotiators that had remained in Doha after Burns and Israel’s Mossad chief, David Barnea, had left Qatar.

A Qatari foreign ministry spokesperson on Tuesday said Israeli officials were still holding talks in Doha, despite speculation that the entire Israeli delegation had withdrawn after a United Nations Security Council resolution called for an immediate ceasefire on Monday.

Israeli officials lambasted the resolution, saying it did not firmly tie a ceasefire to the freeing of the hostages.

CNN’s Lauren Izso reported from Tel Aviv and Niamh Kennedy reported from London. Nadeen Ebrahim, Alex Marquardt and Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.

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