Thousands of Israelis join protests calling for the resignation of Benjamin Netanyahu

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By Katy Dartford  with AP
Thousands of Israelis join protests calling for the resignation of Benjamin Netanyahu
Copyright  AP Photo

Thousands of Israelis demonstrated on Saturday evening outside the official residence of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling for his resignation over criminal corruption charges and his handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Police say a number of people were arrested for causing public disturbances. Protesters were seen scuffling with officers and some were forcefully dragged away from Paris Square in central Jerusalem, the scene of weekly protests for the past four months.

During a month-long lockdown, the protests were scaled back due to restrictions that allowed gatherings only within one kilometre from people's homes.

But last week, these were lifted and the large Jerusalem protests resumed.

The weekly protests have drawn tens of thousands of people to Jerusalem, as well as to smaller gatherings across the country, including the cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa.

Netanyahu's popularity has plummeted over the last few months, as a resurgent coronavirus outbreak spiralled and infections soared.

He's been accused of mishandling the reopening of the country's first lockdown and imposed a second lockdown ahead of the Jewish High Holidays in September that further hit the country's battered economy.

About 25 per cent of the workforce is now unemployed or on open-ended furloughs.

Struggling business owners and unemployed workers have become a key component of the protest movements.

Netanyahu has been charged with fraud, breach of trust, and accepting bribes in a series of scandals involving wealthy associates and media moguls. The second hearing of his trial is set to take place later this year.