Clashes, Arrests in Jerusalem as anti-Netanyahu Protests Continue

Thousands protest throughout the country as groups center demonstrations around annulled Knesset vote for parliamentary probe of submarine affair

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Protesters in Jerusalem, October 24, 2020.
Protesters in Jerusalem, October 24, 2020.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Seven were arrested in Jerusalem Saturday night as thousands of demonstrators nationwide demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu step down in light of his criminal indictments and handling of the coronavirus crisis.

About 2,000 protesters marched from the Knesset building towards the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem, where uninterrupted weekly protests have taken place, with the exception of a few weeks during the lockdown, since the beginning of July.

Four other marches from other sites in the city also converged on Balfour Street. Thousands of demonstrators are now gathered at the nearby Paris Square; police had earlier set up roadblocks on nearby streets in preparation. 

Anti-Netanyahu protesters at Jerusalem's Balfour Street

At about 10:00 P.M., thousands of Jerusalem protesters started another march from the vicinity of the prime minister's residence. Police tried to stop the march in the Mamila area, but demonstrators broke into a run and bypassed the roadblocks.

Later on in the night, police began arrested marchers and confiscated megaphones in Jerusalem's Paris Square, and clashes subsequently broke out at the scene.

Violent clashes in Jerusalem.Credit: Bar Peleg

Seven protesters were arrested for disturbing public order and assaulting officers during protests in the city, but six were released on the same night, police sources said.  

During the demonstration, a video was published of a protester arguing with an ultra-Orthodox teenager and apparently slapping him. The documentation reached the police, and they announced that they had opened an investigation into the case.

Protesters in Jerusalem carry blow-up submarines with Netanyahu's criminal charges on them in Jerusalem, October 24, 2020.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Meanwhile, about 1,000 people took part in a protest by the Movement for Quality Government at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square for the second week in a row, under the banner of "Corruption is leaping – the state is sinking," a play on the Hebrew word for submarine.

This week's demonstrations focused on the submarine affair, which centers around claims that Netanyahu intervened to buy more submarines from Germany's ThyssenKrupp, against the security establishment's position. Senior IDF officers, public officials and a number of people close to Netanyahu are suspected of demanding and receiving bribes to advance the deals with the company. 

On Wednesday, Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin of Likud annulled a Knesset vote to open a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the affair, a move that sparked rage from the opposition.

Protesters in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, October 24, 2020.Credit: Meged Gozani

Violence, threats and arrests continue

Past weeks' demonstrations have seen multiple violent attacks on protesters across Israel, including physical assaults and mace attacks.

At Rabin Square, one protester told Haaretz that a man in a car passed by them and pulled out a taser from the window to threaten them. "I was standing by the square and demonstrating, and I heard this electrical sound," said one of the protesters. "My partner told me that she saw the driver with a taser in his hand. In seconds he drove away." Police arrested three suspects, all aged 26, on suspicion of threatening the protesters.

At the square, police arrested an 18-year-old who broke onto the stage. In a statement, police said that he is suspected of an attempt to disturb the peace. Police "view violence and disturbing the peace of all kinds to be severe, particularly that intended to harm the freedom to demonstrate," the statement said.

Protesters for and against Netanyahu face off in Haifa, Ocotber 24, 2020.Credit: Rami Shllush

Police also arrested a bike courier with the Wolt food delivery service in Tel Aviv on suspicion of trying to run over protesters with his bicycle. Protesters at Habima Square also reported that eggs were thrown at them during their march, one of which hit a 12-year-old.

Another protester in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan said that he was attacked by a passerby, and filed a police complaint against him. "I called out on a megaphone and all of a sudden I was pushed and hit hard from behind," the protester said. "This is the fifth time I've been personally attacked in the last month at this intersection. Passersby push, curse at you, spit," he said.  

In Jerusalem, a 71-year-old was attacked and lightly injured at a demonstration after he was allegedly attacked and pushed down  stairs by two right-wing protesters.

At the Holon Mediatheque, the site of a violent attack on protesters by the right-wing La Familia group two weeks ago, police arrested a minor for throwing an egg at protesters. Because of clashes there in previous weeks, there is a large police presence at the city's protests.

One Haifa protester said she was hit by a flagpole by the passenger of a passing car. Other protesters took the information of the car, and the protester who was hurt will be filing a police report. 

Ahead of the demonstrations, a prominent member of the protest movement, Gonen Ben Itzhak, received a threatening phone call. The anonymous caller warned him "not to deal with" right-wing pro-Netanyahu figure Ron Carmeli Bouzaglo. 

The caller made contact a short time before Ben Itzhak submitted a request for an order distancing Carmeli Bouzaglo from anti-Netanyahu protest sites; Ben Itzhak says the right-wing figure has threatened to run over protesters in Whatsapp groups he runs. Carmeli Bouzaglo says he has no connection to the threatening call.  

Dozens of protesters in the Haifa neighborhood of Bat Galim moved to a different protest site this week, after they were attacked by some 15 right-wing counter protesters bearing Likud flags during last Saturday night's demonstration.

City council member and neighborhood resident Yael Shinar wrote on Facebook following last week's demonstration that "The past protests on Saturday night, and specifically last Saturday's protest, included serious physical and verbal violence that represent a red line and a warning sign." She continued, "Because the current location stirs trauma and much discomfort," and in light of requests from residents, the protest site would be moved.   

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