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Police clear remaining protesters from Jerusalem’s Paris Square

Cops use force to remove some demonstrators, hand out fines to others; 9 arrested in capital; several arrested for attacks on anti-Netanyahu protesters throughout country

Police scuffle with anti-Netanyahu protesters during a march in downtown Jerusalem, October 17, 2020. ( Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Police scuffle with anti-Netanyahu protesters during a march in downtown Jerusalem, October 17, 2020. ( Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Saturday’s events as they happened.

Weekly anti-Netanyahu rallies to resume Saturday evening

Weekly mass rallies against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were set to go ahead this evening, following the end of controversial emergency measures that limited the ongoing protests against the premier.

Ahead of the main protests, demonstrators began gathering for smaller demonstrations at various sites across the country.

The restrictions on protests, which expired Tuesday night, barred demonstrators from traveling more than a kilometer from their homes to protest and required them to maintain socially distanced “pods” of 20 people.

With the expiration of the emergency measures, a major rally was set to again be held outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, which has been the center of the protests against Netanyahu due to his indictment on graft charges and handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The restrictions effectively squashed the protests there, leading demonstrators to holder smaller rallies throughout the country.

Virus curfew begins for some 20 million French people

PARIS — Some 20 million French people are preparing to spend their first evening under curfew, a measure taken by the government after an alarming surge in new coronavirus cases.

The 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. curfew came into force at midnight on Friday in the Paris region and eight other large cities, affecting nearly a third of the country’s population.

People will need a certificate for permitted activities, such as travel to or from work, for medical attention, to visit a dependent relative or to walk a dog.

Those who do not comply risk a fine of 135 euros ($160), while repeat offenders could face fines of up to 3,750 euros ($4,400).

Some 12,000 police officers and gendarmes, in addition to municipal police teams, will be deployed to enforce the curfew.

Restaurant owners, for whom the second part of the evening represents an important part of turnover, have complained about the measure.

“Closing at 9:00 p.m. will have no effect (on the epidemic). They’re not attacking it in the right way,” said Gerard, the manager of a Toulouse restaurant.

The government has defended the measure as the only way to avoid a lockdown, at a time when indicators assessing the coronavirus epidemic, such as deaths and hospitalizations, are deteriorating across Europe.

French health authorities yesterday recorded more than 25,000 new coronavirus cases, with 178 deaths.

The curfew measure, which comes just ahead of a two-week school holiday, contains no travel restrictions, raising the prospect that huge numbers of families will flee cities for the countryside.

Scheduled to last at least four weeks, the curfew could be extended if the epidemic does not show signs of abating. President Emmanuel Macron has already mentioned the date of December 1.

— AFP

Suspect asked students to point out French teacher before beheading — prosecutor

The suspect in the beheading of a teacher outside a school in France asked students in the street to point out the victim, a French anti-terror prosecutor says.

Jean-Francois Ricard also says the suspect, a Chechen, shared a photo of the teacher’s body on Twitter and wrote that he carried out the murder, according to Reuters.

The teacher, Samuel Paty, recently showed his students in the Paris suburb of Conflans Saint-Honorine cartoons of the Muslim prophet Mohammed. French President Emmanuel Macron labelled the killing an Islamist terror attack.

Russia says Chechen accused of Paris suburb beheading no longer has links to country

PARIS — An 18-year-old Chechen accused of beheading a teacher near his school in a Paris suburb received asylum in France and had no links to Russia, a Russian diplomat says.

“This crime has no relation to Russia because this person had lived in France for the past 12 years,” the spokesman for the Russian embassy in Paris, Sergei Parinov, tells state news agency TASS.

— AFP

9 detained in clashes on Route 1 between Armenian protesters, Azerbaijan supporters

Police detain nine suspects following clashes between a group of Armenian protesters and supporters of Azerbaijan on the main highway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Two people injured in the clashes on Route 1 near Sha’ar Hagai are taken for medical treatment, according to Hebrew media reports.

The Armenian protesters, who set out in a convoy from Jerusalem, are demonstrating against Israeli arms sales to Azerbaijan, which has recently engaged in fighting with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Weekly anti-Netanyahu rallies resume; police gear up for rally outside PM’s residence

Small rallies are held across Israel as part of the weekly protests against Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Protesters have begun gathering outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, where a large rally is expected this evening following the limiting of emergency measures that barred Israelis from protesting over a kilometer from home.

Police are closing off a number of streets near the residence due to the protest and call on demonstrators to wear masks and adhere to social distancing guidelines.

“The police reiterates that it is acting to allow the holding of protests by all demonstrators, but will not allow any violation of public order and will act firmly against any attempt to disturb public order,” a police statement says.

Health Ministry reports 26 more deaths, 834 new coronavirus cases over Shabbat

The Health Ministry confirms 834 new coronavirus cases over Shabbat, raising the number of infections since the pandemic began to 302,730.

It also reports 26 more COVID deaths, bringing the national toll to 2,167.

The number of patients in serious condition drops to 689, with 238 on ventilators. Another 210 are in moderate condition. In total, there are 35,212 active cases.

Yesterday, 1,469 people were diagnosed with the virus out of 32,914 tested, a positive test rate of 4.5%. So far today, 10,741 tests have been performed and 313 people were confirmed to have the virus, a positive rate of 3%. Testing rates typically drop off on weekends and holidays.

Israeli soccer star says he feels fine after contracting COVID, rips national team’s testing policy

Israeli soccer star Eran Zahavi says he’s feeling fine after Dutch club PSV Eindhoven announced he tested positive for the coronavirus.

“After succeeding in escaping from this since January, now I am also positive for coronavirus,” Zahavi writes on Instagram.

He also criticizes the Israeli national team’s testing policy and efforts to prevent the spread of COVID among members of the squad.

“If we reached a situation in which inside this capsule there are four people who we were in daily contact with, what are the chance there won’t be others,” Zahavi says, referring to other members of the national team who tested positive.

Zahavi says despite twice testing negative, “I felt something wasn’t right” and that he felt “weak and tired” during the game Wednesday against Slovakia.

“I can only understand that there’s no justification for the tests, they can’t prevent anything and we see it in several national squads and [club] teams,” he says.

Israeli national team player Eran Zahavi celebrates a goal during the Euro 2020 qualifying football match between Israel and Austria at the Sammy Ofer Stadium, in Haifa, on March 24, 2019. (Roy Alima/ Flash90)

Gantz defends lockdown as ‘necessary move,’ warns of potential resurgence from reopening

Defense Minister Benny Gantz defends the national coronavirus lockdown that has been in place since September 18 as a “necessary move,” before it begins to be eased tomorrow.

“There was no choice,” he tells Channel 12 news in an interview, citing the sky-high infection rates before the lockdown came into effect.

He warns that there is a “grave danger” of a resurgence in morbidity as the lockdown measures begin to be lifted.

Gantz also says it was health officials who backed reopening preschools in “red” areas with high infection rates, following reports that ministers approved the move due to fears of an ultra-Orthodox “revolt.

Prominent rabbi said to order Haredi boys’ schools to reopen despite ban

Prominent rabbi Chaim Kanievsky reportedly orders Haredi boys schools to reopen tomorrow, though they continue to be prohibited from doing so under nationwide lockdown measures meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Rabbi Kanievsky, who is himself infected with the coronavirus, handed down the order after no agreement was reached over the past week for reopening the schools, the Behadrei Haredim website says.

He calls for students to adhere to social distancing measures and limit the number of pupils per classroom, according to the Ynet news site.

Kanievsky, a leader of a non-Hasidic Lithuanian branch of ultra-Orthodox Judaism, ordered schools to reopen earlier this week but later reversed course.

Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, another prominent community leader, says students should continue to do distance learning, the news site adds.

Preschools and daycares, including in virus hotspots, will be allowed to reopen tomorrow as part of an initial rollback of the lockdown, but all other schools must remain closed.

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky seen at his home in the city of Bnei Brak, on September 22, 2020. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)

Ministers expected to approve weddings of up to 40 people — TV

The so-called coronavirus cabinet is expected to allow up to 40 people to attend weddings when it convenes this week, according to Channel 12 news, despite concerns such gatherings could lead to fresh outbreaks of coronavirus as Israel begins to crawl out of a weeks-long lockdown.

Under the plan to be approved by ministers, weddings can be held in two socially distanced “capsules” — one for the bride and one for the groom — of up to 20 people each, the network reports.

Virus czar: Reopening schools in violation of virus rules ‘is dangerous and against the law’

Coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu thanks Israelis for adhering to the lockdown in place over the past month, but calls on Israelis to continue to follow the rules when restrictions begin to be eased tomorrow.

He urges Israelis to avoid gatherings such as weddings and parties, warning “they’ll quickly bring us backwards.”

“Restrain yourselves,” he says.

Gamzu denies the decision to allow preschools and daycares to reopen in virus hotspots — all of which are predominantly ultra-Orthodox — was political.

“Opening the education system in violation of the regulations is dangerous and against the law,” he says, amid reports that a top Haredi rabbi has ordered boys schools to reopen despite continued restrictions against doing so.

Schools linked to Shas won’t reopen on Sunday — TV

Educational institutions linked to the ultra-Orthodox Shas party — which represents a voter base of mostly Sephardic Jews — will remain closed tomorrow, Channel 12 news reports.

Thousands of anti-Netanyahu protesters rally outside PM’s residence in Jerusalem

Several thousand demonstrators rally in Jerusalem’s Paris Square to call for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign, in the first major demonstrations held near the premier’s official residence in weeks

“Sheheyanu!” says demonstrator Meir Moscovitch, invoking a Hebrew prayer for auspicious occasions. “We were away for three weeks and now we’re back to call for honesty — not left, not right, honest.”

Large-scale demonstrations against Netanyahu have been taking place for 17 weeks now, with the main protests held near the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem. Over the past three weeks, there have been relatively few protesters at Paris Square, as controversial emergency measures limiting travel to protests led to smaller demonstrations being held throughout the country in accordance with the lockdown.

Yesh Atid-Telem MK Moshe Ya’alon and Joint List MK Ofer Cassif are spotted taking selfies among the demonstrators. Little social distancing is evident, although most of the protesters seem to be wearing masks.

Fewer demonstrators are attending tonight’s rally than during the peak of the protests in July. More are continuing to arrive, however, and the protest didn’t officially begin until 8:30 p.m.

In a statement, the Black Flags protest group claims many protesters are being held up at checkpoints outside of Jerusalem.

— Aaron Boxerman,

Organizers claim 15,000 anti-Netanyahu protesters rallying outside PM’s residence

Organizers claim they have counted over 15,000 attendees at this evening’s anti-Netanyahu demonstration at Jerusalem’s Paris Square.

More continue to stream in from surrounding streets as the crowd of demonstrators stretches from Keren Hayesod Street up to the Great Synagogue on King George St.

While police barricades are allowing demonstrators ample space to socially distance, most are tightly clustered close to Balfour Street near Paris Square.

— Aaron Boxerman

3 arrested for spraying pepper spray at anti-Netanyahu protesters in Haifa

Police arrest three people suspected of spraying pepper spray at anti-Netanyahu demonstrators in Haifa this evening.

Police say the suspects, residents of the Kiryat Yam suburb in their 20s, had “evidence connecting them” to the incident in their car.

For second time this week, Bennett hospitalized due to back pains

Yamina party chief Naftali Bennett is hospitalized at Sheba Medical Center outside Tel Aviv for the second time this week.

“The medical process he underwent is a continuation of the same treatment he underwent over the past week,” his office says in a statement quoted by Hebrew media.

It also says he has suffered from back pain since serving as a conscript in the IDF.

On Tuesday, his office said he was hospitalized after experiencing pain in his neck. Bennett addressed the Knesset on Thursday during a plenum session on the Israel-UAE normalization deal.

Naftali Bennett speaking at the Knesset on October 15, 2020. (Gideon Sharon/Knesset)

Netanyahu defends lockdown, says ‘we’re exiting this time with caution’

Prime Minister Netanyahu again defends the government’s imposition of a nationwide lockdown to curb sky-high coronavirus infection rates, in a press conference before restrictions begin to be lifted tomorrow.

“We’re exiting [the lockdown] this time with caution,” he says, after the government faced criticism for swiftly lifting restrictions earlier this year after the initial lockdown.

He calls on ultra-Orthodox Jews to follow the virus rules, after a top rabbi says Haredi boys’ schools will reopen tomorrow despite this continuing to be prohibited.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at his office in Jerusalem on October 17, 2020. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Netanyahu calls on ‘Haredi public and leaders’ not to reopen schools Sunday

Netanyahu is asked about Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky’s decision to order Haredi boys’ schools to reopen tomorrow, despite a continued ban on doing so.

He says the “Haredi public and leaders” should follow the rules and not reopen schools, but doesn’t directly address Kanievsky’s order or mention his name.

He asserts there is no way to send police to every school that opens in violation of the law, amid criticism that police have been turning a blind eye to violations of the lockdown in predominately ultra-Orthodox areas.

Gantz says ‘there can’t be two states here’ after Haredi rabbi’s call to open schools

Defense Minister Benny Gantz also calls on the ultra-Orthodox public to follow the virus rules, but doesn’t directly mention Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky’s order that Haredi boys’ schools should reopen tomorrow despite the continued ban on them doing so.

“There can’t be two states here. No group or person in Israel is above the law — no one,” he tweets.

Gantz calls on Haredi leaders to instruct their followers to adhere to the guidelines, citing pikuach nefesh, the Jewish religious imperative to save lives.

He stresses most Israelis — including most Haredim — have followed the rules.

Trump hits back at GOP Senator Sasse after criticism, calls him ‘an embarrassment’

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump pushed back Saturday at Senator Ben Sasse on Twitter, calling the Nebraska senator “a liability to the Republican Party, and an embarrassment” to the state.

The president’s Twitter attack comes after Sasse told constituents in a telephone town hall Wednesday that Trump has “flirted with white supremacists,” mocks Christian evangelicals in private, and “kisses dictators’ butts.”

Sasse, who is running for a second term in a reliably red state and is seen as a potential presidential candidate for 2024, made the comments in response to a question about why he has been willing to publicly criticize a president of his own party. He also criticized Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and said Trump’s family has treated the presidency “like a business opportunity.”

Trump tweets that Sasse is “the least effective of our 53 Republican Senators, and a person who truly doesn’t have what it takes to be great.”

Trump’s tirade continues throughout the day as he compares Sasse to former US senators Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona, who left the Senate after combative relationships with the president. Trump suggests perhaps Republicans should find “a new and more viable candidate?”

Trump carried Nebraska by 25 percentage points in 2016.

Sasse “said the same thing to Nebraskans that he has repeatedly said to the President directly in the Oval Office,” spokesman James Wegmann says in a statement today. “Ben is focused on defending the Republican Senate majority, and he’s not going to waste a single minute on tweets.”

— AP

Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska speaks during the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, in Washington, October 14, 2020. (Hilary Swift/The New York Times via AP, Pool, File)

Anti-Netanyahu protesters attempt to march in Jerusalem

A large group of protesters marches down Jerusalem’s Agron Street from Paris Square, where a mass rally is being held against Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Dozens of police officers rush to cut them off, preventing them from leaving the intersection.

“Hundreds of demonstrators begin a march without police authorization,” a police statement says.

Police have long cited a Supreme Court ruling from 2017 that requires marches to be coordinated with them in advance.

— Aaron Boxerman

Hundreds of protesters block street in downtown Jerusalem

Hundreds of demonstrators are currently blocking Hillel Street in downtown Jerusalem, after marching there from the anti-Netanyahu rally at the capital’s Paris Square.

Some throw eggs at protesters from a balcony overhead.

— Aaron Boxerman

Protesters briefly block light rail tracks on Jerusalem’s Jaffa Street

Several hundred protesters briefly stand on the light rail tracks by the Jaffa-Merkaz station in downtown Jerusalem, before being turned back by police.

Demonstrators are now gathered by Hahistadrut Street.

The Times of Israel caught up with two demonstrators from Beersheba wearing knitted kippahs typical of the national-religious Israelis.

“We support any demonstration for Netanyahu to resign, even one which many believe is left,” says Yonatan David, carrying a sign reading “Only Bennett Will Bring Sovereignty!”

“It’s not our camp, and we know they curse us here. But it’s important for us to be here and tell Netanyahu to go. He betrayed us on sovereignty,” David says, referring to a promise made by Netanyahu to annex parts of the West Bank.

— Aaron Boxerman

Protesters march in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market

The anti-Netanyahu protesters are now marching in Mahane Yehuda, a popular market in the center of Jerusalem.

— Aaron Boxerman

Deliveryman arrested in Tel Aviv for spraying suspicious substance toward protesters, injuring 1

Police arrest a 19-year-old man in Tel Aviv for allegedly spraying a suspicious substance toward anti-Netanyahu protesters.

Police say one person was injured and required medical treatment. The person’s condition isn’t specified.

Hebrew media reports identify the subject as a deliveryman for Wolt, a food delivery application.

Police say another man, 54, was arrested in Tel Aviv for cursing at and punching a protester, who didn’t require medical treatment.

Police also arrest two residents of nearby Bat Yam, ages 17 and 20, on suspicion of spraying pepper spray at a group of protesters in Jaffa as they drove by.

Protesters return to Paris Square after march through Jerusalem

Hundreds of demonstrators who marched through Jerusalem — from the Jaffa-Merkaz light rail station, through the Mahane Yehuda market and down to Gan Sacher – have now returned to Paris Square.

Several hundred protesters calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s resignation remain in the intersection. The police have said that demonstrators had until 11 p.m. to continue protesting.

So far, however, they have yet to call on demonstrators to disperse or announced that the gathering is illegal.

— Aaron Boxerman

Police begin to forcefully disperse protesters in Jerusalem

Border Police officers have begun to forcefully disperse demonstrators who remain in the intersection at Jerusalem’s Paris Square.

— Aaron Boxerman

Police begin handing out fines to remaining demonstrators at Paris Square

Police are handing out fines to demonstrators for participating in an “illegal gathering” and not maintaining two meters of distance, in an attempt to clear Paris Square.

“I’m not paying this, I’ll keep my salary,” a demonstrator who prefers to remain anonymous says.

— Aaron Boxerman

Cops say 3 arrested during anti-Netanyahu march through Jerusalem

Police say they arrested three protesters during an anti-Netanyahu march in downtown Jerusalem for allegedly violating public order and assaulting officers.

Police condemn the march, saying it wasn’t coordinated with them in advance.

Meanwhile, several hundred demonstrators remain at Paris Square. Some chant “don’t identify yourselves,” referring to recent widely publicized arrests of two young women in Tel Aviv who refused to identify themselves to police.

— Aaron Boxerman

Jerusalem rally ends as last protesters disperse

In Jerusalem, the latest protest calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s resignation has dispersed. Paris Square has opened for traffic.

In a statement to journalists after the dispersal, senior Jerusalem police official Alon Halfon says that “a number of arrests” were made tonight, without specifying further.

Asked why police had allowed a number of marches to take place throughout the city, including one which gathered on Jerusalem’s light-rail tracks by Jaffa Center station, Halfon says that it was done after “consideration by police” not to confront demonstrators unnecessarily.

Police have previously sought to disperse such marches with riot police, mounted police and water cannons.

Halfon says he does not have any information on two reported incidents of violence against demonstrators — eggs and glass bottles hurled at protests near Mahane Yehuda Market as they marched through.

— Aaron Boxerman

Police: 9 arrested in Jerusalem during protest march

Police announce that nine demonstrators were arrested during tonight’s demonstrations against Netanyahu during a march through Jerusalem’s downtown.

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Schools linked to Shas won’t reopen on Sunday — TV

Educational institutions linked to the ultra-Orthodox Shas party — which represents a voter base of mostly Sephardic Jews — will remain closed tomorrow, Channel 12 news reports.