Covid and the economy: tens of thousands of Israelis protest the government

Defying lockdowns and restrictions, citizens invoke new protests and call for the resignation of Prime Minister Netanyahu. In Tel Aviv tensions and clashes with the police. A resentment heightened by the failure to comply with the rules by prominent personalities, including the prime minister's wife. The army opens a coronavirus ward at Rambam Hospital in Haifa.


Jerusalem (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Over the weekend tens of thousands of Israelis took to the streets again in various cities of the country, challenging the lockdown imposed by the government to contain the coronavirus, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

From July every Saturday is characterized by demonstrations, in spite of the recently introduced rule that prohibits people from leaving their home for more than one km. In the last protest, the demonstrators, respecting the rules on distancing (except in Tel Aviv where the gatherings were more evident), waved flags and displayed signs reading "Netanyahu leave!".

At the end of September, the Israeli parliament passed a law which aims to stifle the wave of protests in Israel against the government and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The executive is being criticized over its management of the coronavirus pandemic, with a surge in new cases that has led to a second total lockdown, and the management of the economic crisis. The premier, on the other hand, is considered inadequate to the role due to the accusations of fraud and corruption which he must answer to in court.

Unlike other cities, there were clashes between demonstrators and security forces in Tel Aviv. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld reports that the demonstrations in the country's commercial capital did not comply with current regulations and those present "threw objects at officers" who tried to distance them. The policemen "responded" with force to "illegal incidents and protests".

The resentment of the population towards the closures has increased in recent days, when some of the country's leading personalities allegedly violated the provisions on the restrictions. Among these was the wife of the prime minister, who had a hairdresser enter her husband's official residence. Today, only essential workers can leave their homes and, throughout the holiday period, parties and meetings were prohibited, especially among Orthodox Jews who tend to respect distancing less.

Israel has so far recorded 280,000 coronavirus cases and 1,900 victims, out of a population of nine million people. At the moment it boasts the unenviable record of the highest weekly rate of infections per capita.

As a result, yesterday the authorities opened a new centre for the treatment of the disease run by doctors and nurses of the army, an unprecedented move in the history of the nation, thus compensating for the crisis in the health system.

The military unit is called to operate at Rambam Hospital in Haifa, in northern Israel. The unit includes a room for remote control of patients and a pavilion for the sick where, previously, there was an underground parking. Avi Weissman, deputy head of the facility, stresses that the intervention of the army will allow the restoration of some activities - such as ordinary operations and outpatient visits - hitherto suspended due to Covid-19.

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