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Spurning Purim curfew, anti-Netanyahu protesters rally for 36th week

Some demonstrators claim public transportation halt over the Jewish holiday is intended to limit protests; man arrested for allegedly tear-gassing protester

Israelis wearing costumes take part in a parade during the festivities of the Jewish holiday of Purim, while also protesting against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on February 26, 2021 in Tel Aviv (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
Israelis wearing costumes take part in a parade during the festivities of the Jewish holiday of Purim, while also protesting against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on February 26, 2021 in Tel Aviv (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Anti-Netanyahu protesters rallied across Israel on Saturday evening, the 36th week of mass demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his indictment on graft charges and handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The main demonstrations were held outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem and Netanyahu’s private home in the coastal city of Caesaria. Several hundred demonstrators gathered in each of the locations. Smaller protests took place at highway overpasses and intersections around the country.

In Herzliya police said they arrested an 18-year-old suspect for allegedly spraying a demonstrator with tear gas.

Demonstrators said they would continue to protest despite a COVID-19 curfew on the Purim holiday. Saturday was the last day of the nationwide curfew, which limits Israelis to within a kilometer of their home between 8:30 p.m. and 5:30 a.m.

One protest group claimed the curfew was in fact intended to limit the protests, but insisted it was “determined, and no regulation will break our spirit.” The curfew was also in effect on the nights of Thursday and Friday — not times in which any major protests are held.

Ministers this week also decided to halt public transportation to Jerusalem on Saturday night and Sunday to prevent revelers from traveling to the city for Shushan Purim celebrations — a final day of the holiday, traditionally celebrated in walled cities such as Jerusalem and Safed a day after Purim ends in other places.

Police put up a temporary roadblock on Route 1 near Jerusalem during a nighttime curfew for the Jewish holiday of Purim, February 25, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Demonstrators have been holding regular protests for months against Netanyahu, demanding he resign over his trial on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.

They have also criticized his government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Netanyahu denies wrongdoing and claims the indictments are part of an effort by political rivals, the media, police, and prosecutors to remove him from office.

Israel is preparing to hold new elections on March 23.

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