Thursday, May 30, 2024

Israelis hold massive rallies against PM’s ‘judicial reforms’ for 14th consecutive week

Tens of thousands of Israelis have rallied across the occupied territories for the 14th straight week, condemning the "judicial reforms" proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The protests against the plans, which were paused last month in the face of a wave of strikes and mass demonstrations, come amid surging violence in the occupied territories.

As protesters rallied in Tel Aviv on Saturday, Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian man in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. Ahed Salim, 20, was hit in the chest and stomach by live fire in Azzun near Qalqilyah, the ministry added.

Separately, the Israeli military announced three rockets were launched from Syria toward Israeli territory. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the rocket launches, which caused no damage or casualties.

Around Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, tens of thousands of worshippers were expected for evening prayers amid concerns about a possible repeat of nighttime Israeli police raids this week that were followed by rocket barrages into Israel and Israeli air attacks on Gaza and southern Lebanon.

Israelis were also on edge after a car-ramming in Tel Aviv on Friday that killed an Italian man and wounded five other tourists, hours after a shooting attack killed two Israeli sisters and wounded their mother near an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.

Netanyahu has mobilised border police reservists and ordered the army to reinforce security positions to head off possible trouble, amid calls for calm from the United Nations, the European Union and the United States.

In central Tel Aviv, crowds waving the blue and white Israeli flags that have become a hallmark of the protests during the past three months gathered in a show of defiance against plans they see as an existential threat to Israeli democracy.

The judicial proposals, which would give the government effective control over the appointment of Supreme Court judges and allow parliament to overrule many decisions of the court, have caused one of the biggest domestic crises in Israel’s recent history.

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, including army reservists, business leaders, members of Israel’s tech industry and leading academics have taken part, facing off against supporters of Netanyahu’s far-right religious-nationalist coalition.

The government, which has accused activist judges of increasingly usurping the role of parliament, says the overhaul is needed to restore a proper balance between the judiciary and elected politicians.

Critics say it will remove some of the vital checks and balances underpinning a democratic state and hand unchecked power to the government.

Before the protests, police had urged people to leave roads clear to allow emergency services to move freely following Friday’s car-ramming on a popular shoreline promenade in Tel Aviv.

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