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Anti-Netanyahu demonstrators rally throughout the country for 18th week

Clashes, arrests in Jerusalem as many thousands protest across nation; organizers claim 170,000 take part; several reports of violence against activists, suspects arrested

  • Protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu near his official residence in Jerusalem, on October 24, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu near his official residence in Jerusalem, on October 24, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Hundreds attend a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Rabin Sqaure in Tel Aviv on October 24, 2020 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
    Hundreds attend a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Rabin Sqaure in Tel Aviv on October 24, 2020 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
  • Protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu near his official residence in Jerusalem, on October 24, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
    Protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu near his official residence in Jerusalem, on October 24, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
  • Protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu near his official residence in Jerusalem, on October 24, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu near his official residence in Jerusalem, on October 24, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Thousands of Israelis gathered Saturday evening in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, as well as in intersections and overpasses throughout the country for the latest mass protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government.

Saturday’s events saw the 18th weekend of demonstrations calling on Netanyahu to resign over his corruption trial and handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rallies were held outside Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem, in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square and near Netanyahu’s home in Caesarea.

The Black Flag protest movement estimated in a statement that 170,000 people showed up to demonstrate throughout the country. The number, which is impossible to verify, is somewhat lower than previous turnout estimates they have given for past protests.

The crowd at Paris Square outside the Prime Minister’s Residence was large compared to recent weeks, with some reports putting the number of people there at 10,000.

Several marches took place through the capital. One such march, of several hundred activists, led to clashes between protesters and police.

Law enforcement officials said a march was held through city streets without any coordination, and after returning to the central protest location near the premier’s residence, “some of [the protesters] clashed with police and brought down security fencing set up there.”

Police said seven were arrested in the altercations.

In Tel Aviv, several hundred protesters who did not make it to Jerusalem are marching from Habima Square.

There were several reports of violence toward protesters, including in Haifa, Holon and Tel Aviv. Police said they arrested three people suspected of threatening demonstrators with a taser in Tel Aviv, and another who allegedly hurled an egg at protesters in Holon.

A bike rider working for food delivery firm Wolt was reportedly detained for attempting to run over protesters in Tel Aviv. It was the second week a deliveryman for the company was detained for attacking protesters, and it may have been the same person.

A Twitter account called “Mothers Against Police Violence,” said one of its members called police after identifying the bike rider as the same man who pepper-sprayed protesters last week. When she tried to block him from leaving, he tried to run over her kids, she said.

According to a Ynet reporter, a second Wolt driver was detained elsewhere in the city, also on suspicion of hitting protesters.

Protests against Netanyahu have been taking place for many months. They were originally limited mostly to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, but in recent weeks — after the government temporarily banned travel and mass protests as part of a coronavirus lockdown — activists throughout the country have begun holding smaller rallies in hundreds of locations throughout the country.

The protest ban has since been lifted, but the dispersed demonstrations have continued. Protest organizers have urged all attendees to wear masks and maintain social distance, in line with coronavirus health regulations.

As demonstrations against Netanyahu have spread out, incidents of violence against activists have multiplied, including beatings and multiple attacks using pepper-spray.

Police have said they make every effort to protect the protesters and to keep the peace, and have deployed large forces around the country to do so.

Netanyahu is on trial in three criminal cases for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Netanyahu has denied the allegations and attacked the police, the justice system, and other officials for what he and his allies term a “witch hunt.”

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