Middle East

Thousands in Israel protest for release of hostages and call on government to resign

From CNN's Lauren Izso and Hande Atay Alam

Thousands of protesters filled the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem Saturday night, with two separate groups calling for the government to resign and demanding the release of hostages held in Gaza.

In Tel Aviv: Demonstrators on two main streets of Tel Aviv called on the Israeli government to resign, with some protesters also seen burning fires and scuffling with police in the city.

Protesters blocked Ayalon Highway — a major inter-city freeway in Gush Dan, Israel, in the metro Tel Aviv area — and chanted, “There is nothing more important. Every hostage must come back.” Na’ama Lazimi, a member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, was seen among the protesters on the highway.

Protesters set a fire during a demonstration in Tel Aviv, Israel, on March 16.
Protesters set a fire during a demonstration in Tel Aviv, Israel, on March 16. Amir Levy/Getty Images

In Jerusalem and Caesarea: Thousands of family members of hostages still held in Gaza demanded the release of their loved ones on Saturday evening. A social media video captured arrests of protesters who were calling for elections near Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s private residence in Caesarea. Israeli police said they arrested four in Caesarea and two in Jerusalem.

What police say: Israel Police said it approved the request to hold the protests, but added that “a number of protesters gathered illegally on Menachem Begin Road and began to violate the order by lighting fires on the road and blocking the movement of vehicles.”

“At the same time, a number of protesters went down to Ayalon and blocked a part off the road while confronting the police,” the statement said, adding that police then “announced that the demonstration was illegal and that they should clear the traffic routes. At this stage, the rioters did not listen to the instructions and the police had to use measures to disperse the rioters in order to stop the offense.”

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