Twenty-eight arrests as Israelis protest against government handling of coronavirus crisis

Public anger over a second lockdown has been compounded by economic downturn, rising unemployment and corruption allegations against the Prime Minister


Israeli police arrested 28 demonstrators on Saturday night as anger over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s response to the coronavirus pandemic saw thousands take to the streets in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Self-employed people demonstrated in Tel Aviv’s Charles Clore Park, before marching to Habima Square, and the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem. A water cannon was used to disperse the crowds.

The latest protests reflect mounting criticism of the Israeli government’s reaction to the economic fallout of the pandemic. Israel has experienced a sharp rise in unemployment and a second lockdown due to a spike in cases has further harmed the economy.

On Saturday night, Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron announced a forecasted economic contraction of more than six per cent, with state-mandated closures of many businesses on weekends costing the economy 1.8 billion shekels (£417 million) each time.

It has emerged that a doctor in Ramat Gan, in the Tel Aviv district, has been infected for a second time with coronavirus, after recovering from it in May.

Public anger towards the Israeli government has been compounded by corruption allegations against Mr Netanyahu, which he denies, for which the trial resumed today.

Reports in Israeli media suggest the judge has decided the trial’s evidentiary stage will start in January. Mr Netanyahu will be expected to be present at those hearings, which will be held three times a week.

Many of those protesting on Saturday night called for Mr Netanyahu to resign as Prime Minister.

According to Haaretz, they displayed signs such “out of touch, you don't care” and chanted “shame”. Police attempted to keep them in smaller groups, but they broke through barriers as clashes broke out.

Fifteen were arrested in Jerusalem and 13 in Tel Aviv. Israeli police said five of those arrested in Jerusalem would be brought before the city’s magistrates and that six people would appear before magistrates in Tel Aviv.

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