Israeli police have clashed with protesters camped outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's home in Jerusalem.
Thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets of the Israeli capital over the last few weeks to rally against Netanyahu's alleged corruption and what protesters see as the government's mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic. Similar scenes have been taking place in Tel Aviv, where thousands of self-employed workers gathered to protest this weekend, angered that they have not yet received the government aid they say they are due.
On Monday, Jerusalem municipal officials and police tore down tents in the anti-Netanyahu protest camp in West Jerusalem, and can be seen in video footage removing banners and remonstrating with protesters. Six protesters were injured, according to Israeli media.
"The inspectors trampled me and five others, and because of their brutal violence we had to call two ambulances – and one man had to go to hospital," a protester named Roi Peleg told KAN, the public radio broadcaster. "Throughout this time, as you can see in every video, we begged for explanations and were ignored."
In a statement, protest organisers said, "A group of about 30 policemen, police officers and city inspectors attacked the encampment at Balfour [Street], and the demonstrators, who are permitted to be there. Without identifying themselves or presenting any [official] order, they began to violently confiscate the protesters' private property, without an explanation as to why the property was seized."
A police spokesperson said the area had been cleared because of "complaints about noise filed by people living in the area … and sidewalks blocked continuously". The Jerusalem municipality said, "This morning, again, the equipment that was placed without a permit and disturbed the peace was removed. Every allegation of the use of violence has been examined and found to be false."
After the camp was cleared, Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid tweeted: "Netanyahu has lost public trust, and with it the courage to face citizens who tell him the truth daily – that he's failed."
Netanyahu, 70, is facing three corruption charges – making him the first standing Israeli Prime Minister to face trial – all of which he strenuously denies. Public anger around these allegations has been heightened by the Israeli's government's response to the coronavirus pandemic. While the country was quick to lockdown, keeping the infection rate low, new cases have surged to over 1,000 per day over the past week – a rise critics say is down to a hasty reopening of businesses.
Furthermore, unemployment in the country has risen to 21 percent, and many have been left with no economic lifeline. During the weekend's protests in Tel Aviv – organised by self-employed workers, performing artists' groups and small business owners – many demonstrators said they have been waiting months for government compensation packages to materialise and keep them afloat.
On Friday, Netanyahu met protesters and is quoted as saying, "We will meet our commitments, including hastening the immediate payments that we want to give you."