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Israel OKs Law to Curb Protests        09/30 06:22


   JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel's parliament on Wednesday passed a law that would 
allow the government to curtail public protests during the country's nationwide 
coronavirus lockdown, a measure that drew fierce opposition a day earlier.

   The law allows the government to declare a special week-long state of 
emergency if the coronavirus spreads out of control. If such a state is 
declared, the government would be able to limit participation in assemblies, 
including protests, to 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) from a person's home, 
effectively putting a halt to large weekly demonstrations outside Prime 
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence.

   The Knesset approved the bill 46-38 during a late-night session that 
stretched into the morning hours.

   That measure is widely seen as a bid to squelch protests against Netanyahu, 
which have drawn thousands each week outside his official residence for the 
past several months.

   They are the largest sustained demonstrations against Netanyahu in nearly a 
decade, and call on the longtime prime minister to resign while on trial for 
corruption charges and accuse him of bungling his management of the coronavirus 

   Netanyahu has said the protests must end due to public health concerns. But 
protesters say he is using the crisis as a pretext to muzzle them.

   Netanyahu is on trial for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in 
three separate cases. He has denied any wrongdoing, accusing the media and law 
enforcement of an orchestrated "witch hunt" against him.

   Earlier this month, Israel declared its second countrywide lockdown, and 
tightened restrictions further last week in a bid to rein in one of the world's 
most severe coronavirus outbreaks. Schools, malls, restaurants and hundreds of 
businesses are shut.

   The lockdown went into effect on Sept. 18, just before the Jewish New Year, 
and was initially slated to be lifted on Oct. 11. But Israeli officials are now 
saying the lockdown is expected to run longer as new COVID-19 cases continue to 

   Israel, a country of around 9 million people, has recorded over 235,000 
cases of the novel coronavirus and more than 1,500 deaths, according to Health 
Ministry figures. The ministry said Tuesday the country has for the first time 
surpassed the U.S., one of the world's worst-hit countries, in per capita daily 
coronavirus deaths.

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