New anti-Netanyahu protests in Israel despite coronavirus restrictions

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Israelis kept up weekly protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday, defying lockdown restrictions imposed by authorities aimed at stemming a surge in coronavirus cases.

The parliament in Israel, which currently has one of the world’s highest COVID-19 infection rates per capita, last week approved a law restricting demonstrations during an emergency lockdown.

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Part of draconian measures, it restricts people from moving more than one kilometer (less than a mile) from their homes.

Anti-Netanyahu protests have been staged each Saturday since July to denounce the prime minister’s handling of the virus pandemic and the economy.

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In the latest demonstration, people waved Israeli flags and held up signs addressed to Netanyahu, whom many accuse of corruption, saying “Go away,” AFP reporters said.

The demonstrators largely respected social distancing measures unlike in Tel Aviv where thousands took to the streets and clashed with police.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the protesters in Israel’s commercial hub were not social distancing and “threw objects at police officers who confronted them.”

“Police units at the scene are responding to the incidents and illegal protests,” he added.

With more than 280,000 coronavirus infections confirmed so far and over 1,900 deaths in a population of nine million, Israel currently has the world’s highest weekly infection rate per capita.

Public anger has also deepened in recent days in Israel over a bitterly unpopular lockdown after high-profile figures reportedly violated the restrictions, including Netanhayu’s wife Sara who summoned a hairdresser to the premier’s official residence.

Only essential workers are allowed to leave their residences, adding further stress to an already battered economy, while Jews have been barred from gathering with friends and family over the High Holidays.

The health ministry meanwhile urged ultra-Orthodox Jews to observe hygienic measures and social distancing and hold prayers outdoors on Saturday night when they observe the Simhat Tora holiday.

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