Protests held against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu across Israel on Saturday were marked by incidents of violence, including attacks on protesters by civilians and police.
Violent incidents took place in several locations across the country, as thousands of protesters demanded the resignation of the Netanyahu government over what they say is the mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Several videos taken at protests showed police shoving, tackling and violently arresting protesters.
In south Tel Aviv, riot police hit protesters blocking their way and refusing to disperse.
Police also prevented independent journalist Jonathan Hempel from photographing a march in Tel Aviv, and threw him to the ground, despite knowing that he was a journalist.
In one video, a young man is seen slowly walking along the side of a road in Tel Aviv while filming the protest on his phone, when a police officer suddenly tackles and arrests him. The officer shoves the protester toward a bus passing by.
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Police meanwhile said an officer had been hurt, but did not provide details.
Protesters also encountered violence from civilians. As tensions spiked, a protester who was punched in the face on Saturday in the Tel Aviv neighborhood of Ramat Hahayal was taken to Ichilov Hospital. Three people were arrested, but their involvement in the incident was not clear.
On Sunday, police said they had detained a resident of Hadera suspected of assaulting a protester in the city the previous day, who said she was shoved and had her sign taken away and torn up. He was questioned and confessed to the charge, and was released under restrictions.
The protest group Arise Israel reported a number of other violent incidents toward protesters throughout the country. According to reports received by the organization, in Pardes Hannah, a protester was assaulted and his arm was broken; in Tel Aviv, two protesters who were assaulted were sent to Ichilov Hospital; in Ramat Gan, a glass bottle was thrown at protesters from a balcony; in Jerusalem, a protester was beaten and another was knocked down; in Holon, a glass bottle was thrown at protesters; and in Haifa, a firecracker was thrown at protesters.
The Black Flag movement involved in organizing the protests issued a statement regarding the violence, saying: “The government of Israel is headed by a lawbreaker who is inciting to the extreme the citizens he is supposed to be leading. He and the band of instigators around him are responsible for every drop of blood shed over the past week."
A statement by Arise Israel and other movements said: "The blood of the protesters that was spilled throughout the country is on the hands of Netanyahu, who incites and issues accusations of blood libels against protesters and is leading us to civil war."
The Israel Police issued the following statement on Sunday regarding Saturday night's events:
"By virtue of its role, the Israel Police works to enforce the law, the regulations and restrictions of movement and assembly set forth therein, without exception.
"Freedom of protest within the limits set forth in law by the political echelon in the shadow of one of the greatest health crises that have befallen Israel and against the background of high morbidity rates of the coronavirus, is not freedom to infect and does not allow any demonstrator to violate law and order or harm public health.
"Unfortunately, last night many serious violations were discovered at protest sites, including disorderly conduct, road blockades and incidents of violence, and therefore fines were issued and arrests made where required, and especially in cases where [the protesters] did not heed, or even confronted, police officers' instructions and warnings.
"The police will not allow for such callous violations of law and public order at protests and anywhere else, and will continue to act resolutely and impartially wherever and whenever required."