Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 4 August 2020

Israeli police fire water cannon to disperse anti-government protests

Some protesters demanded Benjamin Netanyahu's resignation over corruption charges filed against the veteran right-wing premier

Protesters wearing protective face masks due to the Covid-19 pandemic, clash with police during a demonstration on July 18, 2020, in Charles Clore Park in Tel Aviv. AFP
Protesters wearing protective face masks due to the Covid-19 pandemic, clash with police during a demonstration on July 18, 2020, in Charles Clore Park in Tel Aviv. AFP

Israeli police fired water cannon to disperse anti-government protests attended by thousands on Saturday, as public anger mounts over the handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Demonstrators gathered outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem and at a park in Tel Aviv to voice frustration over the government's response to a growing epidemic that has taken a devastating economic toll.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said officers had allowed demonstrations to take place but took action against unauthorised "disturbances", including road blockages.

Mr Rosenfeld said protesters in Tel Aviv sprayed pepper spray at police, leading to arrests.

With Israel recording more than 1,000 new coronavirus infections a day in recent weeks, the government on Friday announced a broad range of restrictions.

Shops, markets and other public venues have closed on weekends, while restaurants have been restricted to take away and delivery.

Mr Netanyahu has admitted he reopened the economy too soon in late April and early May, when Israel, a country of about 9 million people, had reduced its daily caseload to a trickle.

In an apparent bid to quell public anger, Mr Netanyahu this week announced plans to send money to all Israelis – a measure criticised by some experts who said the economy needed targeted assistance, not a nationwide payout.

While some protesters voiced frustration over the reimposed restrictions, others have criticised the government for failing to improve testing capacity before the second transmission wave.

According to a July 12 poll by the Israel Democracy Institute think tank, only 29.5 per cent of the public supported Mr Netanyahu's coronavirus management.

That figure was 57.5 per cent at the beginning of April.

Beyond the pandemic, some protesters demanded Mr Netanyahu's resignation over corruption charges filed against the veteran right-wing premier.

Mr Netanyahu denies wrongdoing, but has been indicted for accepting improper gifts and seeking to trade favours with media moguls in exchange for positive coverage.

The trial continues in Jerusalem on Sunday, although Mr Netanyahu is not expected to appear in court.

Updated: July 19, 2020 09:32 AM

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