Weekly protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were revving up Saturday evening amid wintry weather, as demonstrators gathered in plazas, intersections and overpasses throughout the country for the rallies, now on their 22nd week.
Large demonstrations were expected in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Caesarea. The latter could see stronger turnout than usual after controversy this week that saw supporters of the prime minister verbally assaulting the family of a fallen Israeli soldier for hosting a group of anti-Netanyahu protesters.
Public figures were particularly apalled by one demonstrator loudly expressing his wish that the family lose another son. The incident was strongly condemned by many politicians, including Netanyahu himself.
Recent weeks have seen lower turnout at the demonstrations, whether as a result of a drop in enthusiasm or of the colder, wetter weather.
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The Black Flags protest movement said hundreds of cars were on their way to demonstrate near the prime minister’s private home in Caesarea.
It also said pro-Netanyahu activists hurled rocks at protesters in the northern community of Shlomi, near the Lebanese border.
It panned police for allegedly dismissing the attack as “mischief.”
“This is a new record of shame for the Israel Police,” the group said. It added it would appeal to the courts to compel police to act to defend protests.
Demonstrators have been holding regular protests against Netanyahu, demanding he resign over his trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, as well as his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Netanyahu and his political allies have frequently lashed out at the protesters.
The protests have gone on for months and kept a spotlight on Netanyahu at a time when the long-serving leader’s popularity has declined because of his handling of the virus outbreak.
The country is emerging in gradual stages from a month-long lockdown that the government imposed in September to tamp down coronavirus infections. Restrictions still in place have kept event halls, culture venues, hotels and restaurants closed while the economy continues to take a hit.