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Thousands of Israelis protest against Netanyahu's Covid-19 response

The mainly young crowd packed Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Saturday evening

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Thousands of Israelis have staged a demonstration in Tel Aviv over what they claimed was the government’s mishandling of the coronavirus crisis. 

The mainly young crowd packed the city’s Rabin Square on Saturday evening at an event organised by small businesses, self-employed workers and performing artists' groups.

Many are experiencing economic hardship and have been angered by coronavirus measures which have taken their livelihoods away.

They say money they are due from government support schemes has not been paid.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met activists on Friday to discuss their frustrations. Unemployment has surged to more than 20%, and Mr Netanyahu has seen his popularity plummet.

"We will meet our commitments including hastening the immediate payments that we want to give you," his office quoted him as telling them.

While workers on salaries received unemployment benefits via a furlough scheme, the self-employed say most of them have been waiting months for promised government aid.

Protester Daniel Tiedersaid: “We are not working, already, nearly five months, and unfortunately most of us have not received any compensation from the Israeli government and this is really a tragedy.

“In every country all over the world people have received compensation and support from their government. Unfortunately, here in Israel, nothing yet.”

Another Michal Gaist-Casif, vice-president of a sound and lighting company, told the Reuters news agency; "I have 40 workers with no income, no money’

"We need the government to pump in money until we're back to normal. We haven't been working since mid-March through April, May, June and July, and August is looking to be a catastrophe."

Israel imposed a strict lockdown in mid-March but started lifting restrictions in late May. Unemployment has risen to 21%. 

The country has seen a spike in coronavirus cases with 38 670 reported so far. . A total of 362 people have died from Covid-19 in Israel, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

 

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