In the Gaza war that has been going on for six months now, with tens of thousands of deaths, there is still no end in sight to the hostilities between Israel and the Islamist Hamas. While the USA wants to make a breakthrough in negotiations over a cease-fire and the release of hostages held by Hamas, which have been stalled for weeks, with a new advance in Cairo, Israel's leadership under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sees itself under increasing pressure internationally, but also at home . Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities on Saturday evening against Netanyahu's government and demanded more serious efforts to release the hostages kidnapped by Hamas. According to media reports, these were the largest protests since October 7, when a massacre by Hamas and other extremist groups in Israel sparked the Gaza war.

Growing pressure at home and abroad

On that day six months ago, the terrorists attacked southern Israel, killing around 1,200 people and kidnapping another 250 as hostages in the Gaza Strip. Israel's armed forces responded with massive air strikes and a ground offensive that had a devastating effect. According to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian health authority in Gaza, more than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed so far, although the figures, which are difficult to verify independently, make no distinction between fighters and civilians. A large proportion of the 2.2 million inhabitants of the sealed-off coastal area no longer have a home and many are suffering from hunger.

Because of its brutal warfare, Israel is increasingly isolated on the world stage. Even allies are now openly criticizing Prime Minister Netanyahu. There are increasing calls in the United States and Great Britain to stop arms sales to Israel. At the same time, Netanyahu and his government are under increasing pressure at home. Critics accuse him of neglecting the protection of the Gaza border and of subordinating the country's interests to his political survival. Many people in Israel are struggling with the traumatic consequences of the October 7 massacre.

Mass protests in Israel

During the mass protests on Saturday evening, demonstrators lit several fires on the street. There were clashes with the police, as media reported. Relatives of those abducted accuse Netanyahu of standing in the way of a hostage deal. During a week-long ceasefire at the end of November, Hamas released 105 hostages. In return, Israel released 240 Palestinian prisoners from its prisons. According to Israeli estimates, almost 100 of the hostages remaining in the Gaza Strip are still alive. Israel and Hamas have been negotiating for months – but not directly with each other. Instead, the USA, Qatar and Egypt are acting as mediators. Talks about a ceasefire and the release of the hostages have been stalled for weeks. Washington wants to force a breakthrough.

Report: US pressures Israel to make concessions

As the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday, citing American, Israeli and Egyptian officials, the US government wants Israel to allow a limited return of civilians to the north of the embattled Gaza Strip at a new round of negotiations between mediators in Cairo. Hamas representatives say they want to travel to Cairo this Sunday to continue negotiations. According to Israeli media reports, Israel's war cabinet was due to meet on Sunday morning to first discuss whether or not to send a delegation to Cairo.