Tens of thousands of Israelis protest against PM's handling of pandemic

Tens of thousands of Israelis demonstrated on Saturday against joblessness, corruption, and PM Benjamin Netanyahu's handling of the pandemic. Israeli police arrested 12 people and used water cannons before dawn on Sunday to disperse furious protesters against government coronavirus policies in Jerusalem, spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said, cited by dpa.

Police permitted protests outside near Netanyahu's official residence in Jerusalem, in a seaside park in Tel Aviv and elsewhere in the country until shortly before midnight. They even handed out face masks, Rosenfeld said. However, after five hours, they called on the largest crowd in Jerusalem to go home over police van loudspeakers.

They carried away protesters, who sat on sidewalks and refused police calls to disperse in a show of civil obedience. For the first time, protesters gathered after sunset on Saturday also outside Netanyahu's private villa in the central coastal town of Caesaria.

Netanyahu imposed a swift and strict lockdown in mid-March, which successfully contained a first wave of coronavirus in Israel. The lockdown however badly hurt the economy, with unemployment crossing the 20% mark in the country of 9 million inhabitants.

Since the first lockdown was lifted in May, the number of daily new confirmed cases has spiralled, prompting the now-weekly anti-government protests to swell.

With confirmed new cases close to 200 a day per one million residents, Israel now ranks sixth on a New York Times chart of the world's top 10 countries with the most infections after Oman, Bahrain, Panama, South Africa and the US.

Testing is above average in Israel, with more than 23,000 tests carried out on Saturday alone, the Health Ministry said.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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