Hundreds of anti-government protesters gathered on Friday outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem and outside his private residence in the coastal city of Caesarea.
The demonstrations were the latest in a series of near-daily protests against the premier, calling for his ouster over corruption charges, amid widespread frustration over the government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak and ensuing economic crisis.
Uniformed police and plainclothes officers were on the scene and closely monitoring weekend demonstrations after several recent rallies devolved into violence.
Friday’s protests were peaceful and even included a modern dance troupe performing in the street.
— גלעד כהן Gilad Cohen (@GiladCohenJR) July 31, 2020
The anti-government demonstrators were planning on holding a Shabbat service at the Jerusalem rally on Friday evening, as they have for the past several weeks, the Walla news site reported.
About 100 people attended the Caesarea protest.
The ongoing protest movement was also set to expand abroad on Friday with a rally planned at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California.
Organizers said the event was being held “in support of our Israeli brothers and sisters, who protest on 250 bridges in Israel and in the cities’ squares, with the intention of saving the Israeli democracy.”
A demonstration was expected to take place at the Israeli embassy in London on Sunday, and a small rally was held last week at the embassy in Berlin, Walla reported.
Protesters have for weeks been holding regular rallies outside the Prime Minister’s Residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem, as well as in Tel Aviv and other areas, calling on the premier to resign due to his indictment on corruption charges. They have been joined in recent weeks by people protesting the government’s economic policies during the coronavirus pandemic, with crowds in the thousands and rising.
Recent protests have seen an alarming spike in violence, with attacks by right-wing counter-protesters, and scuffles between anti-government demonstrators and police.
On Thursday night police detained some 16 suspected far-right activists after a rally by an extremist Jerusalem gang saw journalists and others attacked, though police managed to prevent the group from approaching and possibly assaulting anti-government protesters.
The rally by Beitar Jerusalem soccer fan club La Familia at Jerusalem’s First Station entertainment complex was planned as a counter-demonstration to a nearby anti-government protest against Netanyahu. It came amid an uptick of attacks on anti-Netanyahu protesters by suspected far-right assailants, including a bloody assault in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.
The far-right counter-protesters on Thursday chanted “Death to leftists,” hurled rocks and assaulted journalists, breaking a camera.
On Tuesday, a rally outside Public Security Minister Amir Ohana’s home in Tel Aviv turned violent when suspected far-right assailants were seen hitting demonstrators with glass bottles, clubs and chairs and spraying them with mace. Organizers of the protest said five people were hospitalized, including two with stab wounds to their backs. Later reports said 10 people were hospitalized.
Five suspects were released to house arrest on Thursday, with a judge said to accept the defense’s argument that the altercation had been a brawl between the two sides, “who had provoked each other,” and not an outright attack against protesters.
The Tuesday violence drew widespread condemnation, including from opposition figures who blamed Netanyahu for inciting it. Netanyahu and some of his supporters have spoken out against the anti-government protesters as “anarchists.”
On Saturday night, police arrested far-right activists, reportedly members of the group, who allegedly attacked protesters. Protesters also reported being attacked by far-right hooligans at smaller demonstrations in the south of the country and near Tel Aviv.
Netanyahu is on trial for a series of cases in which he allegedly received lavish gifts from billionaire friends and traded regulatory favors with media moguls for more favorable coverage of himself and his family. The prime minister has denied any wrongdoing, accusing the media and law enforcement of a witch hunt to oust him from office, and has refused to leave office.