Israel Clears Protest Camp Ahead of Pro-Netanyahu Rally

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Jerusalem (AP) — Israeli police dispersed dozens of protesters outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence on Thursday ahead of a planned rally by supporters of the Israeli leader.

Some of the protesters, including a former head of the Shin Bet internal security service, chained themselves to roadblocks before police unbound them and dragged them away.

“Clearing part of the encampment is a violent act against the protesters,” Carmi Gillon, the former Shin Bet chief, was quoted as saying by the Haaretz newspaper. “The right to protest is a right I will not allow to be taken away from me.”

He raised his arms as he was led away, showing what appeared to be bruises and scrapes.

Protesters have staged a series of demonstrations this summer calling on Netanyahu to resign over corruption charges and criticizing the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout.

Police have clashed with protesters on a number of occasions and used water cannons to clear them off of main streets and squares, though in recent weeks the gatherings have been calmer.

Netanyahu has vowed to remain in office despite being charged last year with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three long-running corruption investigations. He has rejected the allegations as a “witch hunt” and lashed out at the judiciary, law enforcement and media.

He has also faced anger over the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, which has worsened since authorities abruptly lifted a nationwide lockdown in May.

Israel has reported more than 98,000 cases, including 789 deaths, since the pandemic began. The economy, meanwhile, has struggled, with unemployment remaining over 20% despite the reopening of most businesses.

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