Clashes between protesters, police, residents of town where Ben Gvir spending Shabbat


Clashes broke out between protesters, police and residents of the central village where National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir was spending Shabbat on Saturday.

The group of demonstrators reached Kfar Uriah near Beit Shemesh when they heard that the far right minister was there.

Residents were outraged by his presence, with some shouting “Stinking leftists should die,” according to a reporter from the Haaretz daily. One resident reportedly removed his pants and exposed himself to the protesters.

According to the Ynet news site, smoke grenades and firecrackers were thrown towards the protesters, and some were sprayed with a fire extinguisher.

The Walla news site said some residents of the village came out to support the protesters. Others were said to have been angered by the noise and disruption outside the synagogue where Ben Gvir was praying.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

“This was extraordinary violence in Kfar Uriah,” a demonstrator told Ynet

“They brought a truck to block it so the demonstrators could not see Ben Gvir leaving the synagogue,” she said.

Videos circulating on social media appeared to show at least one police officer deploying a baton against demonstrators and law enforcement beginning to clear the area by force.

The protesters held signs declaring that Ben Gvir, who has numerous past convictions for supporting a Jewish terrorist group and for racial incitement, was a “criminal police minister”.

One focus of the chants of the demonstrators was the murder of a woman on Friday in Haifa. Darya Leitel’s husband, a mother of three, told police he killed her.

“Where were you when Darya was murdered?” shouted the demonstrators towards the synagogue.

Leital — the fifth female homicide victim in Israel since the beginning of the year — previously complained about threats from her husband, for whom he was currently on trial.

Darya Leitel, who allegedly murdered her husband on March 17, 2023 (Courtesy)

Ben Gvir chaired the Ministerial Committee on Legislation on Sunday when it decided to delay for six months all discussions on a bill put forward by the previous coalition government that would have introduced electronic tracking of domestic violence offenders.

Ben Gvir’s office said a government-backed version of the bill was being prepared instead – a version that appeared to place greater emphasis on protecting men’s rights.

According to figures released by the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs in November, domestic violence is on the rise in Israel.

Ben Gvir Otzma Yehudit’s far-right party platform included promises to increase personal security.

In addition to violence against women, however, murders are on the rise in the Arab community. According to the anti-violence campaign group the Abraham Initiatives, 31 people have been killed in the Arab community in the last two and a half months.

But Ben Gvir said on Wednesday that he was canceling an anti-crime campaign in some Arab towns because the project is run by the local office of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which it calls a “leftist organization”.

Itamar Ben Gvir, leader of the Otzma Yehudit political party, visits Beit Orot, in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of At-Tur, October 13, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Arab Israelis say police have failed to tackle powerful criminal organizations and for years largely ignored the violence, including family disputes, mafia turf wars, and attacks on women.

Meanwhile there is growing tension between Ben Gvir, the police leadership and the legal establishment.

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara said Ben Gvir may have “crossed the line” this week in recent interventions with police affairs and operational matters.

On Thursday, Ben Gvir issued a letter to other coalition leaders calling for Baharav-Miara to be fired, claiming she was “serving as the de facto leader of the opposition”.

Police chief Kobi Shabtai stressed on Friday that the force will remain outside politics and operate within the law, in remarks aimed at Ben Gvir.

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