Nine months into the Gaza conflict, Israeli protesters took to the streets on Sunday, blocking highways and demanding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s resignation while calling for a cease-fire to free hostages held by Hamas.

Push for Cease-Fire Gains Momentum
Recent efforts to negotiate a truce saw progress last week when Hamas dropped a key demand for an Israeli commitment to end the war. However, Hamas still seeks mediator guarantees for a permanent cease-fire, while Netanyahu is determined to continue military operations until Hamas’ capabilities are destroyed.

“Any deal will allow Israel to return and fight until all the goals of the war are achieved,” Netanyahu stated, likely raising concerns for Hamas.

Symbolic Demonstrations and Balloon Release
Sunday’s “Day of Disruption” began at 6:29 a.m., marking the time Hamas launched rockets at Israel on October 7, starting the war. Protesters blocked main roads and gathered outside government ministers’ homes. Near the Gaza border, demonstrators released 1,500 black and yellow balloons to symbolize the citizens killed and abducted.

Hannah Golan, one of the protesters, expressed her discontent: “It’s nine months today, to this black day, and still nobody in our government takes responsibility.”

Casualties and Hostages
The initial attack by Palestinian militants resulted in around 1,200 deaths and 250 hostages taken. Israel’s retaliatory strikes have killed over 38,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, including both combatants and civilians.

Currently, about 120 hostages remain in captivity, with over 100 released in a November cease-fire. Israel has confirmed the deaths of more than 40 hostages, with fears that the number could rise as the conflict continues. The U.S. has proposed a phased cease-fire, where Hamas would release remaining captives in exchange for a lasting cease-fire and Israeli troop withdrawal. However, Hamas demands a guarantee that the war will end, while Israel insists on the ability to resume fighting if necessary.

Continued Battles and New Evacuations
Israel continues to confront Palestinian militants across Gaza, with heavy bombings and ground operations displacing much of the 2.3 million population. On Sunday, Israel issued new evacuation orders for parts of Gaza City, which had been heavily bombed and largely evacuated earlier in the conflict.

Humanitarian Concerns and Reported Deaths
In Khan Younis, southern Gaza, the bodies of three Palestinians were found near the Kerem Shalom crossing, handcuffed and showing signs of beating, with one having a broken leg. These individuals had been working to secure humanitarian aid and commercial shipments. The Israeli military is investigating the reports.

Thousands of Palestinians have been detained since the war began. Many released detainees and some Israeli facility workers allege torture and harsh conditions, claims denied by Israeli authorities.

Israeli airstrikes overnight killed at least 13 Palestinians, including Ihab al-Ghussein, undersecretary of labor in the Hamas-run government, and three others in a Gaza City school-turned-shelter. The Israeli military reported targeting a militant complex near a school and a Hamas weapons facility, aiming to minimize civilian harm. An Israeli officer was also reported killed in Rafah, raising the total number of Israeli soldier deaths to 680.

Escalation with Hezbollah
Hezbollah launched projectiles into northern Israel, injuring a 28-year-old and three others near the border. Hezbollah’s attacks have escalated since the Gaza war’s outbreak, raising fears of broader conflict. Mediators from the U.S., Egypt, and Qatar are intensifying efforts to broker peace, with Hezbollah indicating a willingness to cease attacks if Gaza achieves a cease-fire.

Prospects for Cease-Fire
Hamas’ recent compromise could lead to the first pause in fighting since November, although a final deal remains uncertain. Washington’s proposal involves a six-week cease-fire, hostage releases, and Israeli troop withdrawals from Gaza.

War-weary Palestinians, like Heba Radi from Deir al-Balah, remain skeptical about the cease-fire: “The cease-fire has become a distant dream.”

As protests continue and negotiations unfold, the path to a lasting cease-fire and resolution of the Gaza conflict remains fraught with challenges and uncertainties.