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Angry Protests Besiege Israeli PM (with VIDEO)
Police use a water cannon to disperse anti-Netanyahu protesters in Jerusalem on July 14. (Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images)

Angry Protests Besiege Israeli PM (with VIDEO)

Demonstrations began with resignation demands over corruption trial, but now express dissatisfaction with pandemic policies

Protesters from all over Israel have been crowding a small square adjacent to the official residence of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on an almost daily basis.

Initially, they were demanding that he resign over his corruption trial – he is accused of bribery, fraud and breach of public trust – but dissatisfaction has now spread to the way Netanyahu and his government have been handling both the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic ills.

On Tuesday evening, protesters armed with placards, pots and pans, trumpets – and even several blazing torches – packed a fenced-off area, but later spilled over to nearby streets and plazas, disrupting traffic throughout the night.

At first contained and well behaved, several participants began pelting police officers with eggs and water bottles, while others, pressed against the barriers, tried repeatedly to shove their way forward toward the residence.

After most of the protesters dispersed, a few dozen marched down one of the city’s main avenues, eventually seating themselves in the middle of the street and blocking traffic. Police used riot gear to disperse them, and 50 people were arrested.

Amir Haskel, a former air force general and a leader of the protests, told The Media Line there were three distinct groups.

The first was older protesters, “people,” he said, “who feel their country is crumbling before their very eyes” over Netanyahu’s refusal to resign. The second was younger individuals driven “first and foremost [by] the economic reality – you could see people crying out for help.”

The third group, he explained, were people he was “less familiar” with.

“Apparently, on the outskirts of [the protesters] were some punks, some provocateurs and instigators,” he noted.

Apparently, on the outskirts of [the protesters] were some punks, some provocateurs and instigators

A police statement issued on Wednesday said “hundreds… disturbed the peace, threw rocks, eggs and objects at law enforcement, injured an officer and caused severe damage to private property.”

For Haskel, the evening’s evolution came as a shock. He described how he and others cleaned the street outside the prime minister’s residence before heading home.

“Then I start getting phone calls about a group of young people rioting around town,” he said with exasperation.

He decries the altercations with police, which, he says, detract from the protests’ true message.

“The press,” he complained, “is focused on that instead of the real story: that of a man charged with severe criminal offenses who cannot function as prime minister, especially with his handling of the economic and health crises.”

The press is focused on that instead of the real story: that of a man charged with severe criminal offenses who cannot function as prime minister, especially with his handling of the economic and health crises

Click on the video below for some scenes from Tuesday evening’s protest.

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