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Weekly anti-Netanyahu protests draw thousands in Jerusalem

Smaller demonstrations also held throughout the country; rally-goers attacked in Holon, Kfar Yona; police arrest one person who pepper-sprayed protesters in Holon

Demonstrators against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, January 9, 2021 (video screenshot)
Demonstrators against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, January 9, 2021 (video screenshot)

Several thousand people demonstrated in Jerusalem near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence Saturday, in the weekly protests calling for his resignation over corruption charges. Smaller demonstrations were also held across the country in plazas, intersections and highway overpasses.

There were no reports of clashes with police forces in the capital, as has occurred on occasion.

In Holon protesters were pepper-sprayed by a number of supporters of Netanyahu, with several dozens reportedly affected. Police arrested one suspect, a 23-year-old resident of the city.

Police also arrested a young man in Kfar Yona, north of Tel Aviv, suspected of attacking and shoving a demonstrator.

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.

On Friday, reports on Hebrew media indicated that last week, Netanyahu and his wife Sara were moved to a secure room in their Jerusalem residence after demonstrators at the weekly protest breached a police checkpoint outside the compound.

According to Hebrew media, Netanyahu, his wife and several other staff members were rushed to the secure side-room in the residence where they waited for roughly 40 minutes before the premier’s security detail from the Shin Bet deemed it was safe for the prime minister to return to work.

Footage showed the activists passing an initial temporary barricade, running about 100 yards down the street before they reached the back gate to the compound on Smolenskin Street.

Most stood and chanted slogans, but others scuffled with officers who tried to clear them away.

Eight anti-Netanyahu activists were arrested in the skirmishes that ensued. Security has since been tightened around the Jerusalem compound and an additional fence was erected near the scene of the breached checkpoint.

The incident took place on Saturday, January 2, but was leaked to the three major TV networks and aired simultaneously on Friday evening in what some TV analysts said was an attempt from Netanyahu’s aides to draw a parallel between the storming of the US Capitol on Wednesday by supporters of US President Donald Trump and the anti-Netanyahu demonstrators in Israel.

Violent protesters, loyal to US President Donald Trump, storm the Capitol, January 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Citing unnamed sources, Channel 13 said that Netanyahu’s security detail had simply been following protocol. Netanyahu himself thought that the precaution taken was unnecessary but he was “emotionally stirred” nonetheless by the incident, the network reported.

The Black Flag and Crime Minister groups that protest on a weekly basis against Netanyahu issued statements denying accusations that they had tried to breach the Prime Minister’s Residence, calling the reports “lies.”

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