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Jerusalem protest disperses after estimated 16,000 rally against Netanyahu

Crowds show up despite lockdown; police appear to detain several dozen protesters, moving aggressively through remaining crowd; social distancing fines questioned

  • Israeli police detain a protester during a demonstration in Jerusalem, on September 26, 2020. (EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP)
    Israeli police detain a protester during a demonstration in Jerusalem, on September 26, 2020. (EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP)
  • Israeli protesters gather during a demonstration amid a second lockdown in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, on September 26, 2020. (EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP)
    Israeli protesters gather during a demonstration amid a second lockdown in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, on September 26, 2020. (EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP)
  • People protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside his official residence in Jerusalem on September 26, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    People protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside his official residence in Jerusalem on September 26, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Israelis protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on September 26, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
    Israelis protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on September 26, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
  • People protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside his official residence in Jerusalem, on September 26, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    People protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside his official residence in Jerusalem, on September 26, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Protesters against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu along Route 1 to Jerusalem, September 26, 2020, during a nationwide lockdown (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
    Protesters against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu along Route 1 to Jerusalem, September 26, 2020, during a nationwide lockdown (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
  • Israelis protest against the government in Jerusalem on September 26, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Israelis protest against the government in Jerusalem on September 26, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • An Israeli protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from a bridge in the Jezreel Valley on September 26, 2020. (Anat Hermony/Flash90)
    An Israeli protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from a bridge in the Jezreel Valley on September 26, 2020. (Anat Hermony/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Saturday’s developments as they unfolded.

15-year-old Palestinian dies after drowning in cesspit, is 6th victim

A sixth Palestinian has died after drowning in a cesspit near Hebron, Walla news reports.

The 15-year-old had earlier been rushed to Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center after five family members drowned and died in the accident.

UK’s Johnson calls for global unity against pandemics

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urges world leaders to “unite and turn our fire” against coronavirus as he announces a “five-point” plan to tackle future pandemics during an address to the UN General Assembly.

Johnson, whose country has been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, also announces new funding to international vaccine efforts and the World Health Organization (WHO).

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in London, to attend the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions at the Houses of Parliament, in London, Sept. 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Johnson tells the Assembly in a virtual address that the pandemic has “united humanity as never before” but has also been an “extraordinary force of division” as nations vied with each other over supplies of medical equipment. “Unless we unite and turn our fire against our common foe, we know that everyone will lose.


Anti-Netanyahu protesters begin congregating at Jerusalem’s Paris Square

Demonstrators have begun arriving outside the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem’s Balfour Street and adjacent Paris Square ahead of an expected mass protest held despite Israel’s second national lockdown.

Organizers have urged all participants to adhere to social distancing and mask-wearing, while police have warned they will enforce health regulations strictly. Markings set two meters apart have been placed on the ground by activists.

This evening’s protest appears to be laundry-themed, in response to a Washington Post report claiming Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, on multiple occasions brought with them from Israel suitcases of clothes to be laundered and dry cleaned while staying at the White House.

Police hand out fines to some Jerusalem protesters for failure to follow rules

Police hand out fines to some protesters near the prime minister’s residence due to failure to socially distance and wear masks.

Activists said officers checked if demonstrators standing close together were of the same family, and wrote them fines if they weren’t.

Hundreds gather for socially-distanced protest outside PM’s residence

Pictures from Paris Square in Jerusalem show several hundreds of people gathered at a protest outside the Prime Minister’s Residence.

Police tell Channel 13 News that they will not limit the number of participants but will enforce social distancing regulations.

Protesters gathered at Paris Square in Jerusalem on September 26, 2020. (screen capture: Channel 12)

Netanyahu reportedly pushing government on emergency rules to limit protests

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued over the weekend to insert emergency regulations that could clamp down on protests, after an attempt to legislate new rules before the weekend failed, Channel 12 news reports.

The channel says that the premier held a call with Blue and White head Benny Gantz and Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn, also from Blue and White, to push them on emergency regulations.

During the call, according to the channel, Nissenkorn and Gantz hinted that Netanyahu himself was the one putting the brakes on legislation, which would be limited in time, unlike the emergency rules, which would give Netanyahu a more free hand on implementing restrictions by fiat.

Speaking to Channel 13, Gantz says there will not be any emergency rules and accuses Netanyahu’s Likud party of “sabotaging” restrictions that the cabinet had agreed on.

He also expresses support for the protests, but urges participants to act responsibility by limiting numbers and keeping social distancing rules.

Thousands reported in Jerusalem, hundreds more protesting in Tel Aviv, Caesarea

Aside from the main protest in Jerusalem, hundreds more people are rallying against the government in Tel Aviv and in Caesarea.

Protests outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s private residence have become a weekly fixture in Caesarea, an otherwise idyllic seaside town.

Media reports put the number of people at Jerusalem’s Paris Square in the thousands.

London police clash with protesters at rally against virus restrictions

London police have shut down a protest in Trafalgar Square against COVID-19 restrictions, clashing with demonstrators amid rising tensions over limits on everyday life as the government tries to stem a sharp rise in coronavirus infections.

Police and protesters were injured when officers moved in after three hours of speeches in front of thousands of people who packed the iconic square in London waving placards opposing mandatory vaccinations, face mask requirements and limits on civil liberties.

Police say they intervened because the demonstrators refused to comply with the very social-distancing rules they were there to protest. Officers removed sound equipment, bottles were thrown and police drew their batons in confrontations with protesters. Several people were seen being led away in handcuffs.

“Crowds in Trafalgar Square have not complied with the conditions of their risk assessment and are putting people in danger of transmitting the virus,” the Metropolitan police force says.

The demonstration was held as Parliament prepares to review COVID-19 legislation and the government imposes new restrictions to control the disease. Some lawmakers have criticized the government for implementing the rules without parliamentary approval.

— AP

Deri says outdoor protesters irresponsible, urges outdoor prayer

Shas leader Aryeh Deri is accusing the thousands of protesters outside the premier’s official residence of acting irresponsibly, accusing them of being the cause for a further spike in new infections.

“When they act irresponsibly, we are required to act even more responsibly and so I call on the whole huge public which will be fasting and praying on Yom Kippur to keep the guidelines and to pray outside as rabbis have instructed,” Deri writes on Twitter.

Deri has in the past fought for synagogues and yeshivas to stay open, despite them being major virus incubators, according to the Health Ministry. He had reportedly conditioned support for legislation clamping down on synagogue attendance for similar limits on protests, which take place outdoors.

Major outbreaks in the ultra-Orthodox community have been discovered in recent days that are likely traceable to large Rosh Hashanah gatherings a week ago, according to Channel 12 news.

The Health Ministry has yet to release new infection stats. It normally publishes them around the close of Shabbat, which occurred over an hour ago.

Over 8,600 new virus cases since Friday; 200 patients on ventilators

The Health Ministry announced that 8,687 new cases of the coronavirus have been recorded since Friday afternoon, in just over 24 hours, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 226,586. Over 67,000 cases are active.

It confirms that Friday alone saw 8,221 new cases, out of just under 60,000 tests.

Five new fatalities bring the toll to 1,417.

The ministry announces a large spike in the number of people on ventilators, to 200, up from 178 on Friday afternoon. Over 720 people remain in serious condition.

Police say protest zone expanded to allow more socially-distanced activists

Police say they have enlarged the protest zone in Jerusalem’s Paris Square to allow as many people as want to to attend a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

They say in a statement they are urging protesters via megaphone to keep all necessary hygiene and distancing rules.

“Police… are acting to allow the holding of protests for all demonstrators, but will not allow disturbances to public order, [and] breaking public health guidelines,” a statement says.

Netanyahu: We messed up first lockdown exit, so did many others

Netanyahu releases a video in which he says that his government messed up in rolling back the first lockdown, while defending the implementation of a second full lockdown.

“Did we make mistakes in the past? Of course. The opening of event halls was too fast. Maybe the opening of the whole school system,” he says in the shaky and seemingly hastily-edited video.

He also points a finger at experts whom he says counseled for opening the economy; the Knesset for overturning some government decisions; and the media for what he says is contributing to public apathy by portraying the response to the pandemic as overblown.

Netanyahu says Israel has “no choice,” but to go back under lockdown, and urges people to stay away from synagogues over Yom Kippur.

He does not mention the protests against him in the video, and no sounds of protests taking place outside his home are heard.

Protesters attacked in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv

Two videos show apparent violence against anti-government protesters in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

In one video, religious youth in Jerusalem’s Nahlaot neighborhood appear to throw a bottle at a car in the convoy heading toward the Paris Square protest. The video also shows a man, apparently the driver, being accosted by several people as he pulls over.

Police say a suspect has been collared for throwing a bottle at a car, after fighting with police. A statement says a number of officers need medical treatment following the arrest.

In a second incident, a group of people is seen surrounding and punching a protester in Tel Aviv’s Shapira neighborhood.


Protesters louder, more energetic, but not always distanced

The protest in Jerusalem is louder and more energetic than demonstrations have been for several weeks.

Thousands of people are gathered in the square, chanting against the prime minister amid persistent urging from the police to keep distance from each other.

Demonstrators are spread out in Paris Square and some 150 additional meters down King George St. Still, many tight clusters of protesters can be observed in apparent violation of the regulations.

When police move into the crowd to detain a demonstrator for unclear reasons, a line of demonstrators begins pushing at the police officers as they attempt to pull them behind a police barricade.

Israelis protest against prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Jerusalem on September 26, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Amnon Dafni-Meron, a medical student at Hebrew University, says there are some benefits to the new rules.

“It’s actually nicer to protest this way, with your own space,” Dafni-Meron says.

But he says that he believes the restrictions on the Balfour demonstrations — and the lockdown — are transparently political.

“The prime minister isn’t thinking about stopping the pandemic or helping out businesses. He’s trying to stop the protests next to his house,” Dafni-Meron says. “People aren’t coming despite the restrictions. They’re coming because of them.”

— Aaron Boxerman

Police and protesters clash as some activists detained

Police have entered the crowd of anti-Netanyahu protesters several times to bodily drag out demonstrators and detain them; it remains unclear why they are being detained.

Protesters are surrounding the police area, yelling “violent cops, you ought to be in jail.”

A video shows protesters and police shoving each other in one incident.

— Aaron Boxerman

Health minister slams protesters for ‘endangering health’

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein tweets against anti-government protesters, calling them virus spreaders and saying that they will soon be clamped down on.

“Don’t follow the protesters’ example tonight. They took advantage of the Knesset’s foot-dragging to endanger their health and the health of those around them,” he writes. “On Tuesday we will finish legislating and the protests will be limited.”

Passage of legislation that would have limited travel for protests and kept demonstrations to 20-person capsules was delayed on Friday.

In response, the Black Flag protest movement makes fun of Edelstein for his refusal to comply with a Supreme Court order to hold a vote on his old role as Knesset Speaker earlier this year. “Don’t listen to the Health minister. Don’t break the rules and don’t break Supreme Court rulings,” the group says, according to Ynet.

Cop attacked while trying to arrest bare-faced offender

A police officer has been hospitalized after being attacked while trying to enforce mask-wearing regulations in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, police say.

The officer was among a group of cops that attempted to detain a man who was seen out without a mask and who refused to produce identification.

Police say that during the arrest, the suspect and several others began attacking officers, hitting one in the head with a rock.

The officer’s condition is not known.

Silwan is a majority Palestinian neighborhood southeast of the Old City.

Mexico says ex-official linked to students’ disappearance hiding in Israel

Mexican Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero says that he has asked Jerusalem to assist in arresting a former high-ranking official believed to be hiding out in Israel.

Tomás Zeron, who was the head of the federal investigation agency in 2014, is wanted for his role in the kidnapping and presumed murder of 43 students in southern Mexico at the time, as well as the subsequent alleged cover-up.

Gertz Manero says 25 arrest warrants were filed Saturday, including against members of the military and federal police.

“Those responsible for the forced disappearance of the 43 students in the south of the country are fully identified” and will be prosecuted, unlike the manipulation and cover-up that happened under the previous administration, said Gertz Manero on the sixth anniversary of their disappearance.

Gertz Manero says that in addition to Zeron’s alleged crimes connected to the case, he also allegedly stole more than $44 million from the Attorney General’s Office budget. Mexican authorities had located him last year in Canada, but as they prepared to seek his extradition he fled to Israel.

— AP

Israel, Lebanon to hold direct talks over gas fields

Israel will hold rare talks with Lebanon next month in an effort to resolve a longstanding maritime border dispute, an Israeli official says.

The official says Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz will lead the Israeli delegation in talks mediated by the United States. Representatives from the three countries are likely to speak by video conference because of the coronavirus pandemic, the official says.

Direct talks between Israel and Lebanon are extremely rare. The countries are technically in a state of war.

There is no immediate comment from Lebanon.

Illustrative photo of a natural gas field in the Mediterranean Sea (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

Israel and Lebanon each claim about 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea as within their own exclusive economic zones.

Both are hoping to explore and develop new gas fields in the Mediterranean following a number of big finds in recent years. US diplomats have been shuttling between the two countries and pushing for direct talks in recent years.

— AP

Western Wall sits forlorn, emptied of crowds by COVID-19 regulations

While protesters pack Paris Square, the plaza in front of the Western Wall, usually a hotbed of activity the night before Yom Kippur, is a ghost town, in line with health regulations.

Thousands attend forgivness prayers (Slichot), at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, early on October 8, 2019, prior to the upcoming Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The plaza and other parts of the Old City are usually packed with people for Slichot, special penitential prayers traditionally said in the middle of the night, ahead of Yom Kippur.

This year, a special prayer service from the Western Wall will be broadcast on television, with only a limited number of attendees there in person.

One person posts screenshots of the Western Wall and Paris Square alongside each other, with the message “Sad!”

Questions raised over cops’ itchy fining fingers

Haaretz reports that cops are handing out fines for social distancing infractions that do not actually exist.

The newspaper points out that under current rules, cops are only authorized to give out fines for “refusal to disperse a gathering,” When it comes to the simple act of being within 6 feet of another human, cops can only issue an order to separate, and after a reasonable time, fine the pair NIS 1,000 if they refuse to separate.

Protesters tell the paper that cops are handing out fines liberally, and sometimes without justification.

“I got to the protest and kept my distance from my friend, and out of nowhere comes a group of cops, who ask if we live together. When I said no, the cop informed me that he is giving me a fine. Didn’t even say for what. Didn’t give me a warning or anything. Didn’t ask us to separate, just asked if we live together and that’s it,” one protester says.

Presumed Ginsburg Supreme Court replacement Barrett arrives in DC

An airplane believed to be carrying likely Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett and her family has arrived at Joint Base Andrews.

Barrett is expected to be nominated to the US Supreme Court on Saturday evening by President Donald Trump. The plane left from South Bend, Indiana, where Barrett and her family live.

The seat was made vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last week at the age of 87.

Barrett is a justice on the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals. She was previously a law professor at Notre Dame and has been hailed as the heir to the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.

She met with Trump at the White House earlier this week.

— AP

Crowds outside PM’s residence thin, tensions with police remain

Crowds outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem have thinned, but several hundred to a thousand people likely remain.

Phalanxes of police are moving back and forth through the crowds, with some shoving seen, but officers are not yet actively clearing the intersection.

Police continue to make regular announcements on a megaphone ordering protesters to wear masks and maintain distancing, threatening to use force if necessary to enforce the guidelines.

Health ministry stats show 29 virus deaths since Friday

Updated numbers from the Health Ministry show that there have been 29 deaths since Friday afternoon, 16 of which occurred so far on Saturday, bringing the death toll up to 1,441.

It says that there have been 4,174 infections thus far on Saturday (as of 10 p.m.), out of just fewer than 25,000 tests, for a sky-high 17 percent positivity rate.

It also updates the numbers from Friday, saying that a total of 8.315 people tested positive for the virus, or 13.7%.

The number of people on ventilators remains at 200.

Over 7,000 active cases in Jerusalem for first time

Health Ministry stats show that there are nearly 7,400 active coronavirus cases in Jerusalem alone, up over 700 just since Friday afternoon. It is the first time there have been 7,000 active cases in any one city.

Two other cities also break active case milestones, with second-place Bnei Brak climbing above 4,000 and Ashdod above 3,000 for the first time.

As of a mere three days ago, Israel only had one city with more than 3,000 cases, Jerusalem.

Tel Aviv is the only other city with over 2,000 active cases.


Cops moving through Jerusalem crowd and detaining protesters

Several hundred demonstrators calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to leave Paris Circle remain in the Jerusalem intersection.

Around 10:30, organizers estimated total attendance at around 16,000.

A charged atmosphere has prevailed in the square for the past hour. Police officers have repeatedly burst without warning into the crowd by the dozens to detain demonstrators, seemingly at random.

Officers, who appear to be acting more aggressively than in recent weeks, have spooked protesters and caused panics by suddenly pushing into the crowd in several instances. Several dozen demonstrators appear to have been detained so far.

“This is dangerous for everybody — people could get hurt. But what are we to expect from a political police which is trying to scare people away from the demonstrations?” Ziv, a demonstrator who declines to be identified by his last name, says.

“Plus, they’re not even doing it themselves,” he says, pointing to a cluster of officers with fewer than two meters between them. “They need to stand back and let us protest.”

“There’s plenty of space — it’s only when the police enter that everyone clusters up,” demonstrator Merav Greenberg says.

Cops have shrunk the protest zone from its enlarged configuration, moving barricades in on Paris Square.

— Aaron Boxerman

Police clear Paris Square, most protesters disperse

Police move to clear Paris Square of protesters and resume traffic in the intersection (though with the nation locked down, there are not many cars anyway).

The only people left in the road are police, with a few dozen protesters milling around on sidewalks.

There does not appear to be any major resistance as the protest disperses.

A mostly cleared Paris Square following protests in Jerusalem early on September 27, 2020. (Screen capture: Walla/Facebook Live)
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