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Protests held near ministers’ homes ahead of renewed fight over limiting rallies

Dozens gather near residences of Gantz, Edelstein, Nissenkorn, Ashkenazi; convoys to head to Jerusalem Tuesday as legislation restricting protests and prayers set to be advanced

Israelis protest against Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu near his home in Caesarea, on September 26, 2020. (Anat Hermony/Flash90)
Israelis protest against Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu near his home in Caesarea, on September 26, 2020. (Anat Hermony/Flash90)

Dozens of demonstrators took part in protests outside the residences of key Israeli ministers on Monday evening ahead of an expected attempt on Tuesday to advance legislation banning large demonstrations as part of a second national coronavirus lockdown.

The protests outside the homes of Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein were organized by the Black Flags movement, one of the main organizers of the demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The organization additionally announced that convoys of vehicles were set to make their way to Jerusalem on Tuesday to protest the legislation.

The convoys are expected to travel along highways to Jerusalem starting at 10:30 a.m. for what organizers called a protest against an attempt by Netanyahu to use “draconian” legislation to stop the demonstrations against him.

Lawmakers on Friday failed to pass a law that would severely restrict both demonstrations and public worship.

MKs rushed the limits on protest and prayer through its first reading late Thursday and sent the measure to the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, where it languished when the lockdown went into effect on Friday and the panel ceased its discussions for the day.

Edelstein said on Friday that he was proposing emergency regulations to bypass the Knesset and to limit public gatherings, but Gantz and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit swiftly voiced their opposition to the move, with the Blue and White chief saying his party would not support it.

Demonstrations against the prime minister over his alleged corruption as well as his scathing attacks on the justice system have become a regular occurrence in recent months, with rallies held several times a week, and major events every Saturday.

But the protests have become a contentious issue as virus cases have grown, with the premier and others disparaging the mass gatherings amid fears of infection.

Israeli protesters gather during a demonstration amid a second lockdown in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem, on September 26, 2020, to protest the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

Edelstein tweeted against the protesters on Saturday, calling them virus spreaders and saying their activities would soon be curtailed.

“Don’t follow the protesters’ example tonight. They took advantage of the foot-dragging at the Knesset to endanger their health and the health of those around them,” he wrote. “On Tuesday we will finish legislating and the protests will be limited.”

On Saturday, thousands of people took part in protests against Netanyahu throughout the country, as well as online, with the largest events held in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Caesarea.

There were also long vehicle convoys to Jerusalem — cars sporting Israeli flags honked as they crawled along roads, with demonstrators by the roadside and on overpasses calling out encouragement.

Drivers in a convoy protesting against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu head to Jerusalem on Route 1, September 26, 2020, during a nationwide lockdown (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Five demonstrators were arrested during the Jerusalem rally, which was one of the most violent in recent weeks. Police and protesters clashed as officers sought to enforce social distancing restrictions with what demonstrators called an excessive use of force.

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