Police on Friday backtracked on a ban for a rally in Tel Aviv against Israel’s annexation plans, saying the protest can go ahead Saturday evening if social distancing regulations are maintained.
According to the Haaretz daily, organizers have pledged to mark up the city’s iconic Rabin Square so that demonstrators stand separated, and have pledged to avoid blocking surrounding roads and to limit the number of participants to 2,000. It was unclear how this could be enforced.
The event, titled, “No to the occupation, no to annexation, yes to democracy,” will kick off with a march from the Tel Aviv Art Museum to the square.
The event was banned by police on Thursday, who said that current virus regulations did not permit marches despite there being no such clause in the rules. The ban was rescinded after meetings with organizers, who were asked not to advertise the event.
Police reportedly issued a formal permit for the rally after talks with MKs from the Joint List party and left-wing activists who said that demonstrators would gather at the square in any case.
Joint List leader Ayman Odeh announced Friday that he would not be attending the rally as he remains in isolation after coming in contact with MK Sami Abou Shahadeh from his party who later tested positive for the coronavirus. Odeh said that even though he himself tested negative, he will remain quarantined under Health Ministry regulations.
“Unfortunately, I will not be able to show you on Saturday night, but I urge every Arab and Jewish citizen to come out and protest against the danger of annexation and occupation and for peace and democracy,” Odeh said in a video message.
Police forcibly broke up a rally late Thursday night, also at Rabin Square, against emergency coronavirus regulations, arresting 12 demonstrators. The protesters who were arrested had blocked traffic, attacked bystanders and police, and damaged property, the police said.
Saturday night’s rally comes amid a wave of regional and international criticism of the planned Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank under the peace plan being advanced by the Trump administration in the US.
After more than a year of political deadlock and two inconclusive elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and rival Benny Gantz in April joined in a coalition government and under their agreement, from July 1 Netanyahu can move ahead with his annexation project.
Much of the international community has already expressed strong opposition to the move and the US has also recently indicated that it wants Israel to slow down.
Palestinians are vocal in their opposition to US President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan, which gives Israel the green light to annex Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley in what is intended to be part of a negotiated process but may go ahead unilaterally.
Palestinians in the West Bank on Friday rallied to mark 53 years since the 1967 Six Day War and protest against the Israeli government’s annexation plans.
In Tulkarem, in the northern West Bank, dozens of demonstrators waved Palestinian flags and chanted slogans. Israeli troops fired stun grenades and tear gas to repel protesters approaching a military checkpoint.
Near Tubas, also in the northern West Bank, a protester was wounded in the head by a rubber bullet fired by Israeli forces, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.
There was no immediate comment from the IDF.
Further protests took place in the West Bank cities of Ramallah, Nablus, Jericho, and the Jordan Valley, an area which could be annexed as part of the Israeli plan.
In the southern West Bank city of Hebron hundreds gathered, chanting against Israel and the US.
Friday’s protests coincided with the anniversary of what Palestinians call the Naksa, the defeat of Arab countries by Israel in the Six Day War of June 1967.
Agencies contributed to this report