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Anti-war protesters turn out in Tel Aviv for demonstration approved by police


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists Israel will keep fighting in Gaza. But as he was making those remarks last night, a few hundred Israelis had a different message in Tel Aviv. NPR's Aya Batrawy was there.

AYA BATRAWY, BYLINE: This is a sound hardly heard in Israel these days.


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting in Hebrew).

BATRAWY: Chants for peace. We're in the middle of a busy intersection in Tel Aviv. Electric scooters are whizzing by. People are walking their dogs, and bars are open. But this is a country at war in the Gaza Strip, only around 45 miles south from where we are.

ABIGAIL ARRENHEIM: I don't want to see the children in Gaza, you know, having such difficulty.

BATRAWY: That's Abigail Arrenheim, one of the antiwar protesters. She's also pained by the more than 100 hostages still held in Gaza since the Hamas attacks on October 7 that killed 1,200 people in Israel. Israel's attacks since that day have killed more than 24,000 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to health officials there. Nearly everyone is displaced and grappling with hunger. Here's Arrenheim again.

ARRENHEIM: My people did it. My government did it. It's my responsibility. This is why I stand here. I want to change this kind of thinking that we are better, that we can handle this situation.

BATRAWY: Protesters held signs that read, only peace will bring security. Another said, stop the genocide. It's a charge Israel now faces at the International Court of Justice - and one that nearly all Israelis vehemently reject, arguing the war is against Hamas, not all of Gaza. But this protest of a few hundred, and another one by the relatives of hostages who blocked a main highway last night, reflect divisions within Israeli society about the war and the man leading it, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Cindy Cohen says his right-wing government doesn't want this war to end because then they'd face new elections.

CINDY COHEN: Israelis, we want our democratic rights and rights for Palestinians, from the river to the sea, for all of us.

BATRAWY: Police in Israel have arrested and beaten protesters in small antiwar rallies, but civil rights lawyers succeeded in getting this one approved.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Hebrew).

BATRAWY: Police are escorting the march. People look on from their balconies. These protesters are a distinct minority here. I see an elderly woman on the sidewalk. She's gobsmacked by the antiwar slogans. When I approach her, she says...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: I don't want to interview. I'm so angry now. I can't.

BATRAWY: With this protest?


BATRAWY: And the protesters, they carry on.

Aya Batrawy, NPR News, Tel Aviv. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Aya Batrawy
Aya Batraway is an NPR International Correspondent based in Dubai. She joined in 2022 from the Associated Press, where she was an editor and reporter for over 11 years.