Israeli protests against Netanyahu draw tens of thousands

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL (AP) — Tens of thousands of Israelis calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign demonstrated across the country on Saturday evening, saying he is unfit to rule while on trial for corruption charges and accusing him of mismanaging the nation’s coronavirus crisis.

Protesters gathered at hundreds of locations across the country due to a nationwide lockdown that has barred them from protesting at the usual site outside Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem.

The current lockdown regulations allow people only to gather within one kilometre of their home.

The largest gathering at Habima Square in central Tel Aviv drew thousands of protesters. The protesters waved pink and black flags symbolising various grassroots protest movements Police reported clashes with the protesters in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Netanyahu is on trial for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes for his role in a series of scandals, and the demonstrators have staged weekly gatherings for the past four months demanding that he step down.

The marches have also been fuelled by the government’s response to the pandemic. After appearing to contain the outbreak last spring through a tight lockdown, it reopened the economy quickly and the infection rate soared.

The country of nine million people has one of the highest infection rates in the developed world and the death toll is approaching 2,000.