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Israel: Large protest in Tel Aviv targets Netanyahu over COVID-19 economic relief

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Protesters hold signs during a demonstration against Israel's government in Rabin square in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, July 11, 2020.
Protesters hold signs during a demonstration against Israel's government in Rabin square in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, July 11, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Ariel Schalit
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Thousands of Israelis demonstrated in downtown Tel Aviv on Saturday, protesting over what is widely seen as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's failure to address economic woes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Many people wore masks, but did not appear to be following social distancing rules.

With economic stress deepening in recent weeks, many Israelis think the government has not done enough to compensate hundreds of thousands of workers who lost their jobs as a result of restrictions and shutdowns.

Unemployment has surged over 20%, and the economic woes have sent once high approval ratings for Netanyahu's handling of the virus plummeting.

The protest in central Tel Aviv's Rabin Square brought together the unemployed, self-employed, entrepreneurs and business owners.

"We are not working already nearly five months and unfortunately most of us have not received any compensation from the Israeli government and this is really a tragedy", said Daniel Tieder, a protester.

"How you can feed your family and pay your employees etc. after five months with zero income?", he added.

Israel imposed strict restrictions in the spring that appeared to rein in the virus but battered its economy, skyrocketing unemployment rates.

Many Israelis haven't returned to work and a new uptick in cases has triggered a new wave of restrictions, prompting even more people to be forced out of work.

The government has announced a number of compensation packages worth billions of dollars, but many say they have yet to see any of the funding promised to them.

On Thursday, Netanyahu announced an economic "safety net" promising quick relief to the self-employed and stipends over the coming year for struggling workers and business owners.

The government is expected to approve the plan on Sunday.