Thousands of Israelis violate lockdown orders to protest government

Demonstrators again clash with police in Tel Aviv as they stage large protests in violation of coronavirus restrictions.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued Saturday night with police confronting thousands of demonstrators in Tel Aviv who violated coronavirus health restrictions.

The national lockdown imposed last month limited all outdoor gatherings to a maximum of 20 people within one kilometer of their residence as part of the move to block the record-high coronavirus infection rate. However, thousands turned out as the four months of regular protests continued unabated.

After several hours of protest, demonstrators began marching and confronting police in central Tel Aviv. At the height of tensions mass marches began around the city, with the police in the area trying to prevent the processions and keep streets open. As police contained some of the marchers, others broke away and continued to block roads.

“People disturbing the peace confronted police officers standing at checkpoints and attacked them, throwing objects they were carrying,” Israel Police tweeted. “Several police officers were injured and treated on the spot; a suspect was arrested who spray-painted a police car.”

Police responded with less force than in previous weeks and eight demonstrators were reported arrested at protests in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Protest organizers said demonstrations were held at more than 1,200 points around the country, with television news channels reporting that Saturday’s protests appeared to be the largest to date.

Acting Police Commissioner Motti Cohen said police would continue to work “to enforce the regulations and allow freedom of expression within the law. On the other hand, we will not allow violence of any kind, whether violence directed against demonstrators or civilian violence against the police, and we will act resolutely against violators of law and order. ”

The black flag protest movement that is calling for Netanyahu’s resignation issued a statement saying the lockdown was killing the country.

“Citizens deserve leadership that will stop the economic collapse, that will allow ordinary people to go out to work and earn a living, that will allow mutual responsibility and fraternity to return to the State of Israel,” the protest movement said.

Public frustration has grown as authorities have flip-flopped on numerous coronavirus-related decisions on restrictions. Protesters complained the government is using the pandemic as an excuse to shut down public protest, pointing at multiple incidents of government officials violating the health guidelines.

Also Saturday evening police clashed with ultra-Orthodox Jews who held large gatherings to celebrate the end of the Simchat Torah holiday in Jerusalem and other cities with large haredi populations. The ultra-Orthodox have had the highest infection rate in the country.