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Israel Grapples With Unrest, Virus

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s plans to stifle the monthslong protests against him seem to have backfired Saturday night as tens of thousands of demonstrators cropped up in hundreds of locations all over the country. After the government enacted a national state of emergency last week to battle the spreading coronavirus pandemic, protesters were forced to stay within 1 kilometer of their homes and not reach their usual gathering site, the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem. As a result, squares, intersections and plazas throughout Israel were overtaken with dozens, and in some cases hundreds, of demonstrators. Police who were tasked with ensuring health protocols were adhered to clashed with protesters in Tel Aviv, arresting 38 during the night. All those arrested were later released from custody. Meanwhile, the latest virus figures released over the weekend offer some good news, as daily case numbers and the positivity rate dropped significantly. Yet health officials warn that the surprise improvement stems merely from the fact that ultra-Orthodox Jews, the community most affected by the virus, conducted practically no testing on Saturday, when the Jewish Sabbath coincided with the first day of the weeklong Sukkot holiday.