More than 10,000 protesters gathered on Saturday outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence, and thousands more across the country in demonstrations against the government for the fourth week in a row.
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Police in Jerusalem attempted to bring the demonstration to an end shortly after midnight by airing an announcement over loudspeakers. Police started evacuating protesters from the area around the residence around half an hour later.
Calls to leave the protest zone after midnight often preceded more severe clashes between protesters and law enforcement at previous demonstrations, and some feared violence before the protest started – but the demonstration ended quickly, after an apparently firm police operation. Three were arrested for "disturbing the peace," the police later said in a statement.
Haaretz photographer Ohad Zwigenberg was briefly detained. He was released after being confined for 20 minutes to a bus rented to carry away detained protesters.
In the southern city of Eilat, protesters said they were pepper sprayed, while a police unit in the area said it noticed “something in the air” that soon subsided. Protesters said about 10 of them felt their eyes burn after being sprayed from inside a car and did not see the perpetrator.
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The protests demanding that Netanyahu resign over his corruption charges have been notable for their relative intensity and allegations of police misconduct, as well as violent assaults on protesters who say their aggressors were right-wing extremists.
One protester in Jerusalem on Saturday, Liat Levy, told Haaretz: “The next political murder is written on the wall.” Referring to an interview with the murderer of a left-wing activist, she said, “We all heard Yona Avrushmi calling us ‘germs’ yesterday, and that’s the message Netanyahu signaled, and there are those who may get ideas. ... It’s only a matter of time until a protester is hurt.”
Netanyahu's Likud party on Saturday called the protests "left-wing riots" and accused Israel's Channel 12 News of "doing everything it can to encourage the far-left demonstrations" of the premier's opponents, after it aired an interview with Benny Gantz.
Some 10,000 people participated in last Saturday’s protest at the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem, with 12 protesters being arrested. Earlier that week, five protesters were injured after being attacked, allegedly by far-right counter demonstrators, including with broken glass bottles.
Netanyahu said this week that the ongoing protests "are being organized at luxury hotels towers" and doubled down on his claims that they are being led by "anarchists." The prime minister further alleged that the protests "are funded by left-wing foundations and receive disproportionate support from the media." He has also continuously complained of uncontrolled incitement against him, including what he has said are daily death threats against him and his family and that the media are supportive of the protests "at North Korean" levels. He has also accused protesters of being "coronavirus incubators."
Meanwhile, this week Facebook removed three fake accounts that were pretending to be anti-government protest activists and uploaded content inciting against Netanyahu.
Bar Peleg, Almog Ben Zikri and Reuters contributed to this report.