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‘Banish the darkness’: Clashes, arrests as thousands protest PM in Jerusalem

27 detained after trying to block off entrances and exits to Netanyahu’s residence; 82-year-old killed at Kiryat Ono rally after being hit by car — police say it was accident

  • Protesters against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, on December 05, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
    Protesters against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, on December 05, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
  • Police clash with protesters against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on December 5, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
    Police clash with protesters against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on December 5, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
  • Police confront protesters against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, on December 05, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
    Police confront protesters against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, on December 05, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
  • Protesters against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, on December 05, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
    Protesters against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, on December 05, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
  • Protesters against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, on December 05, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
    Protesters against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, on December 05, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Thousands of people protested outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence Saturday night, on the 24th week of such mass demonstrations against the premier.

Clashes developed around 9 p.m. and 27 people were arrested after attempting to block off the entrances and exits to the residence on Balfour Street.

Demonstrators said police used disproportionate force against rally-goers. They said one woman was stripped down to her bra as dragged her away, with her shirt pulled off her body as officers struggled with her.

Media reports said many protesters at the rally chanted “We’ve come to banish the darkness,” a refrain from a popular song of the Hanukkah holiday, which begins next week.

Police clash with protesters against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on December 5, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Saturdays events in Jerusalem included several protest marches through the city that converged on Paris Square, near the premier’s residence.

Recent weeks have seen numbers at the nation-wide rallies dwindle, leading organizers to focus this week on filling out Jerusalem’s event, according to Haaretz. Saturday’s Jerusalem rally was indeed reported to be considerably larger than those of recent weeks.

In the Tel Aviv suburb of Kiryat Ono, an 82-year-old protester was seriously injured after being hit by a car, and was rushed to Sheba Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead. Police stressed that the incident was an accident, and there was no suspicion that Soffer had been intentionally run over. The identity of the offending driver was known and he was cooperating with authorities.

Protests were also held at intersections, plazas and highway overpasses in the early evening, as on every Saturday in recent months.

Protesters against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, on December 05, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Protesters were holding a march in the town of Ness Ziona, south of Tel Aviv, after a demonstrator was assaulted there last week.

On Saturday morning, workers from the Jerusalem municipality removed a statue which was inspired by an iconic photo of a demonstrator against Prime Minister Netanyahu holding Israel’s national flag against a stream of liquid shot from a water cannon.

The workers were accompanied by police officers, who arrested artist Itay Zalait who lay down at the statue’s base in an attempt to prevent its removal. He was released a number of hours later, the Haaretz daily reported.

Zalait said the statue, which was erected in Jerusalem’s Paris Square, close to the Prime Minister’s Residence and the epicenter of the protests against Netanyahu, had an “engineering permit and did not disturb anyone.”

Itay Zalait stands in front of his statue of an anti-Netanyahu demonstrator in Jerusalem, December 4, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Demonstrators have been holding regular protests against Netanyahu, demanding he resign over his trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. They have also criticized his government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Netanyahu denies wrongdoing and claims the indictments are part of an effort by political rivals, the media, police and prosecutors to remove him from office.

In addition to a central protest in Jerusalem and satellite demonstrations around the country, demonstrators regularly rally outside the Netanyahu family’s private residence in Caesarea.

The protests have gone on for months and kept a spotlight on Netanyahu at a time when the long-serving leader’s popularity has declined because of his handling of the virus outbreak.

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