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Israelis defy lockdown law to protest against Netanyahu

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Israeli police officers arrest an Israeli protester during a demonstration against lockdown measures that they believe are aimed at curbing protests against Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli police officers arrest an Israeli protester during a demonstration against lockdown measures that they believe are aimed at curbing protests against Benjamin Netanyahu   -   Copyright  Ariel Schalit/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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Israelis across the country took to the streets on Saturday, continuing months of weekly protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, despite restrictions prompted by the coronavirus.

The protesters gathered in clusters close to their homes, an attempt not to violate pandemic measures that limit movement within one kilometre (0.6 miles) of one's place of residence.

In Tel Aviv's Habima Square, several protesters were arrested. The reasons for the arrests were not immediately clear.

Police often went into the crowd of protesters, checking their identification documents to establish where they lived.

Mounted police were also deployed in Tel Aviv to help contain the protests.

Netanyahu has been the target of weekly demonstrations outside his official residence in Jerusalem since the summer, with protesters calling on him to resign over his trial on multiple corruption allegations and his response to the pandemic.

Earlier this week, Israel's parliament passed a law that would allow the government to curtail public protests during the lockdown, as Netanyahu's critics accused him of trying to muzzle dissent.

Netanyahu says the restrictions are needed to prevent transmission of the virus.

Lockdown

Following the new measures groups organizing the demonstrations called for protesters to voice their opposition outside their homes.

Israeli media said hundreds of protests dotted the country.

Israel went into a second nationwide lockdown last month and is now grappling with one of the worst outbreaks in the world on a per capita basis.

The emergency government has been roiled by infighting and has faced widespread criticism over its confusing and often contradictory response to the pandemic.

Israel, with a population of just nine million, has reported a total of more than 250,000 cases and more than 1,600 deaths.