Police arrested two people and used water cannons against anti-Netanyahu protesters in Jerusalem for the first time in months on Saturday, as demonstrators rallied for the 32nd consecutive week.
About a thousand protesters gathered at Jerusalem's Chords Bridge and marched toward Paris Square near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's official residence, but changed course in order to pass by the homes of the Netanyahu family in the Katamon neighborhood. There, a number of marchers clashed with police, and one of the protest organizers was arrested. A short while later, the march continued to Balfour street, where the official residence is located.
There, about a thousand people protested against the prime minister's coronavirus response and called on him to step down due to his criminal indictments. They are also demanding a commission of inquiry into the government's handling of the crisis, and the fact that the minutes of coronavirus cabinet meetings, in which the decisions that dictate the country's pandemic response are made, remain classified.
According to the demonstrators, one person was injured by the water cannon, and was evacuated to the hospital. Israel Police said that they had arrested one person for disturbing the peace and that he had been taken in for questioning.
The police added that marchers "made violent attempts to break through police barriers, threw objects, attacked officers and as a result one officer had sustained an injury to his eye." Police said that they arrested one man for assaulting an officer; the perpetrator "smelled strongly of alcohol and had in his possession a drug-like suspicious substance."
Police added later that dozens of protesters have intermittently blocked traffic on the Chords Bridge, and at the same time, rocks were thrown at a police car and truck near the protest site, causing damage. Police are searching for the perpetrators.
About a thousand protesters gathered in Tel Aviv's Habima Square to protest the government's inaction during the coronavirus crisis. Demonstrators are projecting the number of COVID-19 deaths in Israel – over 4,600 – on the wall of the Habima Theater, and a sticker has been placed on the ground for each victim with the number on it. Afterwards, about 500 protesters began marching in the city.
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Shikma Schwartzman, a protester with the Black Flags movement, said that Israel's handling of the pandemic "is a massive failure and the number of dead here is overtaking those of all of Israel's wars combined. Someone is taking advantage of the situation to save himself from the threat of justice and cling to the vaccination campaign. It's an unacceptable situation, and one person is responsible for this failure, and we are demanding that he takes responsibility," she said.
Earlier in the evening, hundreds of protesters also gatheried outside Netanyahu's private Caesaria home. Smaller demonstrations were also held on bridges, in town squares and intersections throughout the country.
Ahead of the demonstration, the Crime Minister protest movement said that Netanyahu has "taken Israel hostage in order to delay his criminal trial, is ingratiating himself to the ultra-Orthodox" at the height of a public health catastrophe.
"Instead of handling the crisis, he is extending the lockdown and presenting an 'economic plan' that includes bribing voters. The loss of control over the pandemic and the reckless behavior is a more severe failure than the Yom Kippur [War]," the group said.
The Black Flags protest movement said that this is "a protest of pain over the deaths of 4,600 Israelis from the coronavirus failure." Netanyahu, the group said, "is ignoring the grave situation and cynically focusing on vaccines in order to save himself from the threat of justice, at a time when Israel is finding itself in a national disaster."
The Ein Matzav ("No Way") protest group also released a statement: "The number of coronavirus victims continues to rise, and the lives of thousands are being cut off due to a weak government that is not functioning and is not dealing with the pandemic professionally for its citizens."
It continued, "The coronavirus pandemic has exposed a government a prime minister that do not serve the public, some of whom will pay with their lives, and we want a new leadership!"
On Friday, dozens of protesters showed up to the back entrance of the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem for about an hour. Police separated them from the entrance to the complex, but the demonstrators did not clash with the officers and did not try to breach the barricades.