With just days to Israel's fourth election in two years, the weekly protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are continuing Saturday night in city squares, intersections and bridges throughout the country.
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Over 20,000 people are gathered at Paris Square, near the prime minister's official residence, for the central protest. It is the largest anti-Netanyahu protest since the weekly demonstrations began last July. The event's organizers say that there are about 50,000 people at the site.
Earlier, thousands of demonstrators marched to the square from the Knesset building with police approval, chanting "Come on Bibi, go" and "The main thing is not to fear at all," and carrying large Israeli flags.
A convoy of cars from around the country is also making its way to Netanyahu's Balfour Street residence.
Yael Shomer, a member of the Black Flag protest movement, said she was physically assaulted by a pro-Netanyahu counter-protester at a Herzliya interchange.
"We were standing at the intersection, and across from us there were three of the usual Bibists," she said, referring to supporters of Netanyahu, "but this time a woman and two children joined them. She crossed the street to come towards us and started verbally confronting a protester standing next to me, while my back was turned to them. Suddenly she karate-chopped me behind my left ear," she said, adding that she had recently undergone spinal surgery, and was lucky not to have been hit there.
Another protester, Maya Ben Tzvi of the Black Flag group, said that she and others were also violently attacked by Netanyahu supporters at the Hemed interchange, near Jerusalem. Two Netanyahu supporters, she said, cursed and threatened the protesters before trying to strike them. A few other demonstrators protected them with their bodies, she said, adding that the police stationed nearby did not get involved until protesters knocked on the windows of their cruisers and requested protection.
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"The officers, who knew the Netanyahu supporters personally, smiled at them and adopted a stance where they were trying to distance us rather than them," she said. "Instead of distancing the provocateurs who are seeking violence, they distanced us. It's scary. The feeling is that the ones who are supposed to safeguard my security and that of my friends are dangerously and irresponsibly abandoning us in a tendentious and intentional way."
The central demonstration at Balfour Street this week includes a stage for live music and speeches – a departure from past months' protests – by Actor Lior Ashkenazi, Achinoam Nini, Danni Bassan, Lucille Crew.
On Friday, Supreme Court Justice Uzi Vogelman rejected a Likud party petition against holding the anti-Netanyahu rally, saying that Likud did not present a sufficient legal basis for its claims. Vogelman also ruled that Likud pay the legal fees of the Crime Minister, Ein Matzav and Darkenu protest movements, to the tune of 3,000 shekels (about $900) each.
Saturday's protest will mark the 39th week of demonstrations againt the prime minister.