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Man indicted for pepper-spray attack on anti-Netanyahu protesters

Prosecutors say 24-year-old drove up to demonstration, verbally abused participants and then sprayed them with mace before fleeing in car

Israelis protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Shilo Junction in the West Bank, October 8, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
Israelis protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Shilo Junction in the West Bank, October 8, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

An indictment was filed Thursday against a man accused of pepper-spraying anti-Netanyahu protesters during a rally in coastal city of Jaffa earlier this month.

According to the charge sheet, the 24-year-old man, from the neighboring city of Bat Yam, drove up to the protesters demonstrating at an intersection, verbally abused them and then sprayed them with pepper spray before fleeing in his car.

He was arrested a few hours later.

Two protesters were injured as a result of the attack, police said.

The charges come after several similar indictments relating to the anti-government protests.

On Tuesday, a 34-year old man was charged over a pepper-spray attack on protesters in Ramat Gan earlier this year. A day earlier, a Tel Aviv man, 54, was indicted for the violent assault of anti-government protesters over the weekend. Before that, 20-year-old Felix Eliav was indicted for the attempted stabbing of a protester in July.

On Wednesday, a homeless man in Haifa was sentenced to eight months in prison for attacking anti-Netanyahu protestors, marking the first time someone has been sentenced for attacking Israelis demonstrating against the prime minister.

A right-wing protesters sprays mace at anti-Netanyahu demonstrators. October 13, 2020 (screen capture via Twitter)

Protesters have held weekly rallies calling for the removal of Prime Minister Benjamin 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, justice system and other officials for what he and his allies term a “witch hunt.”

The protests have in recent months have seen dozens of reported attacks on anti-Netanyahu demonstrators, many of them with pepper spray.

On Saturday night, anti-government protesters were attacked at several locations, as tens of thousands demonstrated in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and around the country.

Protesters in Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan and Haifa reported being pepper-sprayed, and attacks also reportedly took place in Kiryat Ata and Jerusalem. Supporters of the protests say the assailants are being egged on by allies of Netanyahu, who have described the protesters as anarchists subverting the will of the people and spreading the coronavirus.

Police also said they detained several figures suspected in the attacks on demonstrators, including a 19-year-old arrested in central Tel Aviv and suspected of pepper-spraying a demonstrator. Video from the scene showed a driver for the bike-based food delivery company Wolt being detained.

Anti-government protestors outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem, on October 17, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/FLASH90)

The prime minister’s Balfour Street residence has been at the center of weekly protests that have gained steam since the summer, with demonstrators also criticizing his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Critics of Netanyahu say his attacks on the law enforcement system and the protests against him, coupled with the destabilizing effects of the virus, are major causes for a deeply polarized atmosphere that has settled over Israel, and fear the violence may turn deadly.

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