Police use water cannons to disperse protesters demanding PM resign amid surge in pandemic

Netanyahu appoints new coronavirus quarterback to help prevent lockdown as infections surge and daily protests continue.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Police used water cannons to break up a noisy anti-government protest Friday in the neighborhood near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence in central Jerusalem.

The previous evening, demonstrators protesting against the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis and demanding Netanyahu resign refused repeated orders to disperse as the protest continued past midnight. Neighbors in the area of low-rise apartment buildings had complained about the disruption to their lives from the nightly protests that have continued past the 11 p.m. mandated noise abatement deadline for holding events.

“Although most of them dispersed voluntarily, protesters remained who refused to disperse, even when the police forces asked them to leave the place, so we were forced to act to restore public order,” Israel Police tweeted, adding that “55 suspects were arrested on suspicion of various offenses of disturbing public order.”

“Israel Police will work to allow every person the freedom of expression and protest, but at the same time will not allow any violation of the law and violation of public order,” police said.

On Friday, Health Ministry statistics showed no letup in the second wave of corona infections that has been pummeling Israel for the past month. Another 1,889 Israelis tested positive in the past day, bringing the number of people actively sick with the virus to 32,226.

Medical facilities are filling up, with 699 currently hospitalized with corona; 302 are listed in serious condition, including 81 who are breathing with the help of ventilators. One month ago, 188 coronavirus patients were in hospital, and only 45 of them were in serious condition.

To date, 446 Israelis have succumbed to the pandemic.

‘Guiding principle to save lives’

On Thursday, Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announced the appointment of Prof. Ronni Gamzu as “national corona project manager.” He will oversee health policy in the fight to get the second wave of infection flattened and avoid a national lockdown.

Gamzu, director of  Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, is a former director general of the Health Ministry who was involved in the successful management of health policy during Israel’s first wave of corona.

“We are still trying – as much as possible – to avoid a general lockdown but if it is necessary, we will do it because our guiding principle is to save lives, and that is the supreme value,” Netanyahu said.

“After we flatten the curve and reduce the number of infected people, we will implement the strategy that Prof. Gamzu will formulate for opening the economy, opening the education system and opening other areas. Thus we will be able to maintain a safe daily routine during the corona period – for the long-term until a vaccine for the virus is found.”