Disabled protesters snarl car traffic at Ben Gurion Airport
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Disabled protesters snarl car traffic at Ben Gurion Airport

No reported delays to flights as police reopen road out of airport after hour-long demonstration

Disabled protesters block traffic at Ben Gurion Airport to call for higher monthly benefits on August 7, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Disabled protesters block traffic at Ben Gurion Airport to call for higher monthly benefits on August 7, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Several dozen disability rights activists briefly blocked the arrivals area at Ben Gurion Airport on Tuesday to call for higher disability stipends and pensions for the elderly, threatening “more extreme measures” if their demands are not met.

The protest snarled car traffic leaving the airport, but police reopened the roads roughly an hour later.

There were no reports of delays despite an earlier warning from the Israel Airports Authority that the protest could interfere with flight times.

“We will do everything possible so the flight schedule is not affected,” a statement from the Authority said, adding that 90,000 passengers were expected to pass through Israel’s main international airport throughout the day.

Disabled protesters block traffic at Ben Gurion International to protest for higher monthly benefits on August 7, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The protesters, organized under the group “Handicapped Become Panthers,” announced the move last week, and had said they would disrupt traffic at Israel’s main international airport “indefinitely” until their demands are met.

The group, which split off from the country’s main disabled rights group last year after the latter agreed to a compromise with the government sharply boosting disability benefits, has been protesting in recent months demanding another increase to stipends and national insurance benefits for the handicapped that would give many a stipend of NIS 5,300 ($1,500), equal to the minimum wage.

Similar protests in recent months have seen disabled activists block major roads, causing significant traffic disruptions in cities across Israel.

Illustrative image of disabled, handicapped and activists attend a protest calling for better health care, on a main road outside the town of Yekum, causing major traffic jams, August 14, 2017. (Flash90)

In February, after a year of negotiations and dozens of traffic-blocking protests, the Knesset raised the monthly disability stipend to NIS 3,700 ($1,050).

Israel’s main disability rights group accepted the increased stipend, but some activists said the amount was insufficient and have continued protesting.

“There are no compromises when it comes to the stipends for the disabled,” said Naor Lavie, the protesters’ spokesman, on Monday. “We are stepping up the struggle and it’s a shame that the Israeli public will suffer from the effects of the protest.”

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