Calls for action against pro-government supporters after assaults on TV crew, Arabs

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Opposition leaders on Tuesday urged the government and Israel Police to crack down on violence by pro-government supporters after a TV news crew and bystanders were attacked during a demonstration to support the coalition’s proposed significant reform of the judiciary.

Channel 13 reporter Yossi Eli was hospitalized with a broken rib and suspected damage to his spleen late Monday.

Cameraman Avi Cashman suffered a head injury.

Eli tweeted Tuesday thanks to the police for saving him from “a group of rioters and members of La Familia who blocked the road in Jerusalem, spat at us, threw things and hit our photographer Cashman on the head with a stick.”

In another incident, government supporters on behalf of demonstrations in Jerusalem harassed Tamer Alkilani, a reporter for Kan 33, the Arabic division of public broadcaster Kan, at a demonstration in Jerusalem while trying to provide a live update.

There were other reports of far-right activists attacking anti-government demonstrators as well as passing Arabs and police officers.

In one incident, police said an Arab taxi driver was surrounded by protesters who threw objects at his vehicle and smashed his window.

The driver tried to flee through a nearby gas station, but was then “fiercely attacked by the rioters who chased him and severely damaged his car,” police said in a statement.

Police said an investigation into the incident had been opened and three arrests had been made.

Supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial reform plan rally near the Knesset in Jerusalem, Monday, March 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Oren Ziv)

MK Yair Lapid, leader of the opposition and Yesh Atid party, in a statement, blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir for the incidents.

Lapid tweeted that pro-government supporters were guilty of “rampant, ugly and dangerous violence.”

“This is what violence looks like, Mr. Netanyahu, and these are the results of your incitement and Tiktok incitement. [Ben Gvir] who wants to turn his militia of thugs into a ‘national guard’ that will leave terror and violence everywhere in the country,” Lapid wrote, referring to Ben Gvir’s demand for a new security force under his control and critics said. which amounts to a private militia.

Netanyahu has accused the largely peaceful anti-government protesters of violence and plotted political assassinations.

Opposition MK Benny Gantz, who heads the National Unity party, tweeted that he is receiving “difficult testimonies from protesters who attacked supporters of the legislation”.

He urged Netanyahu to “unequivocally call for non-violence,” adding, “Everyone has the right and duty to express their voice – and it is absolutely forbidden to raise a hand against someone otherwise, to harass or harm him. Stop now!”

While there was no immediate comment from Netanyahu, one cabinet member did speak. Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi tweeted that “the police must prosecute anyone who attacks journalists. Do not attack journalistic staff, do not use violence at all. This is a red line that no one must cross, ever!”

Supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial reform plan rally near the Knesset in Jerusalem, Monday, March 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Oren Ziv)

Among the pro-reform protesters in Jerusalem were dozens of members of the right-wing extremist group La Familia, some of whom were filmed attacking Arab migrants. Members of the group have also been blamed for other reported attacks.

The ultra-nationalist La Familia is a fan club of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team, although the team has repeatedly distanced itself from the organization due to its racist rhetoric and violent antics. Security officials have previously called for it to be outlawed as a terrorist organisation.

Channel 13 said that, in light of the incident, it will now provide two bodyguards to its news crews when they cover demonstrations related to the controversial legislation.

In a statement, the network said it condemns the attack on its news team and expects the police to bring the preparations to justice.

Also the Union of Journalists in Israel urged the police to find those responsible. “The attack on Eli follows several similar incidents of attacks on journalists and medical staff in recent days,” the union said in a statement.

It is alleged that Eli was also attacked at a demonstration on Sunday, that time by police. Channel 13 cameraman Shai Toni was also said to have been roughly handled and his camera broken.

The attacks came as massive protests for and against the government’s judicial reforms across major cities led to clashes with police who tried to clear roads and restore order overnight, as the country remains reeling from Netanyahu’s announced that his government would temporarily halt the legislative push that had sparked it. the exhibitions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the nation, March 27, 2023. (GPO Screenshot)

The largest demonstrations of the evening took place in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, with the former a gathering place for thousands of pro-reform demonstrators and the latter hosting the same number of protesters against the government’s attempt to curb to radicalize the High Court of Justice. power. Fifty-three demonstrators were arrested for blocking roads and causing public disturbances throughout the day across the country, though mostly in Tel Aviv.

Earlier in the day, Netanyahu promised to establish a “national guard” under Ben Gvir’s direct authority in exchange for the far-right minister who supported his decision to suspend the judicial reform legislation. Ben Gvir is already in charge of the police force and the Border Police.

Weekly mass protests have been held for nearly three months against the proposed legislation, which critics say will politicize the court, remove key checks on government power and seriously damage Israel’s democratic character. Proponents of the measures say they will stay judges who they claim have overstepped their bounds.

Netanyahu announced on Monday night that he was temporarily halting the legislation to allow talks.

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