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25 Jul, 2023 02:41

Car rams anti-reform protesters in Israel

Three people were injured in the incident as demonstrations and clashes with police intensified on Monday
Car rams anti-reform protesters in Israel

Three people were injured in Israel after a driver rammed into a crowd of protesters during a rally against highly controversial judicial reform that had been passed by the Knesset, the country's parliament. Clashes with police erupted during demonstrations in several cities, resulting in dozens of arrests. 

The incident took place on Monday night near the town of Kfar Saba, located about 16 kilometers (ten miles) northeast of Tel Aviv, where a group of demonstrators gathered to march against the sweeping judicial overhaul.

In a video of the attack circulating online, a white vehicle is seen accelerating through the crowd and over a small bonfire, kicking up a plume of flames as protesters flee in panic. Three people were “lightly wounded” in the ramming, Haaretz reported, citing police.

A male suspect in his 20s was arrested, local police told the outlet. Israeli journalist Noga Tarnopolsky later described the man as a “West Bank settler.”

Thousands of Israelis turned out for protests in multiple cities as lawmakers passed the first part of the new judicial reform on Monday. The law, which imposes major limits on the Supreme Court’s oversight of government, has been the subject of heated debate and controversy since it was proposed earlier this year, triggering a wave of demonstrations across the country and condemnation abroad.

At least 34 people were arrested on Monday, while police unleashed water cannons on protesters in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, local media reported. Police in Tel Aviv said ten officers were injured during clashes there.

Demonstrators also blocked a number of roads and highways. The Ayalon freeway near Tel Aviv was obstructed by crowds, fires, and barricades for several hours before law enforcement intervened. According to the Times of Israel, many of the estimated 15,000 protesters remained in the area afterward.

A security guard fired a handgun into the air during a scuffle with protesters near the Hatzerim Kibbutz in southern Israel, the Jerusalem Post reported, noting that the guard and six others were arrested later on Monday night.

Following the contentious Knesset vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a video statement, saying he was willing to renew talks over the reform with his opponents. Seeking to reassure critics of the bill, he insisted that “no side will take over the court.”

In his own video, opposition leader Yair Lapid denounced the prime minister for “lies” and “empty theater,” saying he was merely aiming to “lull the protests to sleep.” The lawmaker went on to declare that Netanyahu’s “extremist and messianic government cannot tear our democracy apart in the afternoon, and in the evening say that he proposes dialogue.”