Police arrested a suspect who allegedly planned to attack anti-Netanyahu protesters in Tel Aviv on Thursday evening.
The suspect, an 18-year-old from the suburb of Holon, was approached by officers on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard, where demonstrators were marching. After being ordered to stop and identify himself, the suspect threw a screwdriver at the policemen, the Ynet news site reported.
He was also found to be carrying pepper spray.
Photos showed the suspect, who was wearing a white hoodie, being detained by plainclothes officers.
“The police presence at the scene, the vigilance and resourcefulness of the officers prevented an opportunity to harm demonstrators,” a police statement said.
בלשים סמויים של המשטרה עצרו חשוד בן 18 מחולון בשדרות רוטשילד בתל אביב שבכליו היו גז מדמיע ומברג. הבלשים שעצרו אותו חושדים שהתכוון לפגוע במפגינים. הוא נלקח לחקירה בתחנת המשטרה כש- @tomerappelbaum ואני במקרה היינו שם pic.twitter.com/Vu9X4olOBY
— Bar Peleg (@bar_peleg) October 22, 2020
The arrest came amid a rise in violence toward Israelis protesting against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his indictment on graft charges and handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Wednesday, a homeless man in Haifa with a reported history of mental health problems was sentenced to eight months in prison for hurling rocks at anti-Netanyahu protesters in the northern city, the first person to be sentenced for attacking Israelis demonstrating against the premier.
In total, five people have been indicted for the dozens of suspected assaults on protesters, according to the Haaretz daily.
Thousands demonstrated across Israel on Thursday at a series of protests meant to highlight financial woes, police brutality and high-level corruption.
Large protests were held in Tel Aviv and Haifa, and smaller rallies were held in hundreds of other locations. In Holon, far-right counter-protesters faced off with anti-government activists and heckled an opposition Knesset member.
Protesters have held weekly rallies calling for the removal of Netanyahu, who is on trial in three criminal cases for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Netanyahu has denied the allegations and attacked the police, the justice system, and other officials for what he and his allies term a “witch hunt.”
As demonstrations against Netanyahu have become more dispersed throughout the country, incidents of violence against activists have multiplied, including beatings and multiple attacks using pepper spray.
Critics of the prime minister say his attacks on the law enforcement system and on the protests against him, coupled with the destabilizing effects of the coronavirus, are major causes for a deeply polarized atmosphere that has settled over Israel, and fear the violence may turn deadly.