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Thousands Rally Against Netanyahu Government In Jerusalem

Demonstrators waved blue and white Israeli flags and chanted “Elections now!”

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Jerusalem on Sunday against President Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and the military exemption for ultra-Orthodox Jewish men, in scenes reminiscent of last year’s large-scale street protests.

Protesting groups, including those that led the mass demonstrations that rocked Israel in 2023, organized a Knesset rally outside the parliament building, calling for new elections to replace the government.

Protesters are also demanding a more equal sharing of the burden of military service, which holds most Israelis captive. Around 600 soldiers have been killed since the October 7 Hamas attack and the ensuing war in Gaza, the highest military casualty toll in years.

Israel’s N12 news agency said it was believed to be the largest demonstration since the war began. Haaretz and Y-Net news sites reported that tens of thousands of people participated.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet has faced widespread criticism over security failures in the Hamas attack in southern Israel that killed 1,200 people and took more than 250 hostages in the Gaza Strip.

“This government is a complete and utter failure,” Nurit Robinson, 74, told the rally. “They will lead us into the abyss.”

Israel’s war in the Palestinian enclaves is exacerbating long-standing causes of friction in society and has also upset Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government. Ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary students are granted exemption from the country’s conscription military service.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week applied to the Supreme Court for a 30-day delay at the last minute, as the government faces a March 31 deadline to introduce legislation to resolve decades of conflict over the issue.

As an apparent accommodation, the Supreme Court gave government officials until April 30 to file additional arguments. However, the interim ruling also ordered the suspension of state subsidies for seminary students responsible for conscription starting Monday.

Demonstrators waved blue and white Israeli flags and chanted “Elections now!”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a news conference in Jerusalem that he was confident a solution would be found. He also said holding an election in the middle of a war that Israel said was very close to winning would paralyze the country for months.

In Tel Aviv, families of the hostages and some of their supporters blocked a main road to protest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure to return their loved ones.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)