Thousands of Israelis returned to the streets and bridges all across the country to protest againt Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday, continuing to demand his resignation over his corruption cases for the 19th week in a row.
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With the protest being held close to the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, groups also protested against the incitement that preceded the murder. Protest groups have sounded the alarm in recent weeks over threats and violence against demonstrators, with several people being indicted for allegedly assaulting protesters.
Several thousands joined the main protest in Jerusalem's Zion Square, near Netanyahu's official residence, with the crowd marching to Balfour Street, where the residence is located.
Demonstrators then marched around the city, occasionally clashing with police forces. According to police, six protesters had been arrested.
Witnesses at Zion Square told Haaretz that a protester was assaulted by a police officer and was wounded in the head. Itay Sibel, who witnessed the altercation, said that the protester intervened when plainclothes officers attempted to arrest another demonstrator, and was then kicked in the head by one of the officers.
The protester fell to the ground, hit his head and was evacuated to receive medical treatment at Shaare Zedek Medical Center. Other protesters have also said they witnessed undercover police officers forcefully subdue demonstrators who they perceived to be as the ones leading the marches.
Meanwhile, more than 1,000 protesters gathered at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, with a separate march of hundreds of demonstrators that set off from Habima Square passing through the square and drawing followers.
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In Caesarea, some 300 protesters gathered at the entrance to the street where Netanyahu’s private residence is located. Smaller protests were also taking place at traffic junctions and city squares throughout the country, with hundreds of people spread out on various bridges overlooking the Ayalon Highway that passes through Tel Aviv.
A protester in Ramat Gan was pepper sprayed by someone passing by on a scooter and received medical treatment at the scene. “We were standing at a traffic island, there were four of us, and then a few teenagers with hoodies on electric scooters passed by and sprayed right at us,” said the man's girlfriend. “I saw a cloud of mist, but it hit him directly in the face. They covered themselves up really well so we couldn’t identify them.” Police said they have opened an investigation of the incident.
A protester at a traffic junction in Hod Hasharon told Haaretz that he had witnessed a violent assault of a demonstrator. According to the witness, a car stopped next to protesters and two men cursed at and beat one of them. “They got into the car and fled,” he said. “Our guy took some serious blows and his megaphone was broken. I realized he was on his way to the emergency room.”
Police said it had detained two suspects in the attack, and that the protester who was attacked sought medical treatment independently after suffering light wounds.
At the Caesarea protest, Yaniv Sagee, executive of the Center for a Shared Society at Givat Haviva NGO, said: “Today, hatred and incitement are raging again, and contrary to what you said, Bibi, you are not the address – but rather us. But we did not gather to cry, but to inspire hope. We will prevent the collapse of this country."
Ahead of the protest, leaders of Crime Minister, among the main groups instrumental in the demonstrations, demanded that the commander of the police’s Jerusalem District instruct officers to work to keep tensions low, following clashes at last week's protests and at previous ones.
Meanwhile, police said four youths had vandalized booths belonging to the Peace Now organization at Zion Square, where the Jerusalem protest was held, and that one of them was detained.
Police also said they had arrested three demonstrators in the afternoon, as they tried to walk on the highway with a setpiece shaped like a submarine and refused to listen to police orders.
When asked, the officers said the three were arrested for conduct likely to disturb public order and for conspiracy to carry out a misdemeanor. The three have since been released.
Several thousands protested throughout the country on Thursday, the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Rabin (according to the Hebrew calendar).
In his speech at the special Knesset session marking 25 years since Rabin's assassination on Thursday, Netanyahu referred to the protest movement, comparing it to incitement that preceded the killing. "Twenty-five years after Rabin's assassination, incitement to murder the prime minister and his family persists and no one says a word," Netanyahu said.