Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 September 2020

Israelis take to the streets over government's handling of coronavirus

Protesters are calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's resignation during widespread demonstrations

Thousands of Israelis again held demonstrations against their prime minister on Saturday, with the main protest taking place in Jerusalem outside the official residence of Benjamin Netanyahu.

The protests have been going on for the past few weeks, sparked by what critics see as the government's failure to handle the coronavirus crisis after initially keeping the threat at bay. Corruption charges against Mr Netanyahu have further fuelled the demonstrations.

“Bibi, go home,” read one sign held by a protester. Another placard read “Everyone can see that the emperor has lost his clothes".

Hundreds of protesters also gathered outside Mr Netanyahu’s beach house in the upscale town of Caesarea.

Last week, police used water cannons to disperse crowds in Jerusalem.

After what has been called a hasty and erratic reopening of the economy in May, the number of Irsaeli infections shot up, with the average number of new daily cases now about 2,000. Israel’s economy has been battered by virus restrictions and the unemployment rate has increased to nearly 20 per cent.

Protesters say the government’s offers of financial assistance have been nowhere near enough.

Israel was praised for its initial response to the Covid-19 outbreak, but the government has come under criticism because of a resurgence in cases after restrictions were lifted in late April.

The number of people to test positive for the virus in Israel topped 60,000 on Saturday. On Saturday, the tally of new infections was 1,203, bringing the number of cases to 60,678.

Israel, which has a population of about nine million, has reported more than 450 Covid-19 fatalities during the pandemic.

The protests came in the shadow of Mr Netanyahu’s corruption trial, which resumed this month. Hearings will start in January.

He is charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in a series of scandals.

Updated: July 26, 2020 04:10 PM

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