Israeli police use water cannons on protesters, arrest 55

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police used water cannons to disperse protesters in central Jerusalem and arrested at least 55 of them as clashes broke out overnight after thousands staged a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israelis have held a series of demonstrations in recent weeks calling on Netanyahu to resign, citing his trial on corruption charges and his fractious unity government’s poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The protest near the Prime Minister’s residence began around sundown on Thursday and was initially largely peaceful. A smaller counterprotest in support of Netanyahu was held nearby, with the two camps separated by metal barricades and a large police presence.

Police say they moved in to disperse the protesters when they tried to stage a procession through the city. Police scuffled with demonstrators before four large trucks roared into action, spraying water cannons back and forth, scattering the protesters.

At times, it appeared the trucks were spraying protesters from behind as they tried to leave the area peacefully.

Israel imposed a general lockdown when the first coronavirus cases appeared in March and by May had largely succeeded in containing the outbreak. But then it moved quickly to lift virtually all restrictions, and in the following weeks cases surged.

The country has reported a total of over 57,000 cases and at least 442 deaths. More than 24,000 patients have recovered.