Israel’s Netanyahu rails at media over protests against him

Protesters chant slogans during a demonstration of thousands against the Israeli government near the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem on August 2, 2020. Thousands protested against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu across Israel on Saturday night, demanding he resign over alleged corruption and a resurgence of coronavirus cases. / AFP / MENAHEM KAHANA
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Updated 02 August 2020

Israel’s Netanyahu rails at media over protests against him

TEL AVIV: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday railed at swelling protests against his rule, saying they were egged on by a biased media that distorts facts and cheers on the demonstrators.
Netanyahu has faced a wave of protests in recent weeks, with demonstrators calling for the resignation of the long-serving leader, who is on trial for corruption charges. They’ve also panned his handling of the coronavirus crisis. Netanyahu has painted the protests as dens of “anarchists” and “leftists” out to topple “a strong right-wing leader.”
The protests have largely been peaceful. In some cases they have ended with clashes between demonstrators and police. In others, small gangs of Netanyahu supporters and individuals affiliated with far-right groups have assaulted demonstrators.
In a six-minute rant at a meeting of his Cabinet, Netanyahu slammed the media for “inflaming” the protests and for misrepresenting incidents of violence against the protesters.
“There has never been such a distorted mobilization — I wanted to say Soviet but it has already reached North Korean terms — of the media in favor of the protests,” he said.
Netanyahu said the media ignored “wild and unfettered incitement, including daily calls — including the day before yesterday — to murder the prime minister and his family.”
He said the protests were breeding grounds for the virus that were being allowed to take place with no limits, shutting down streets and neighborhoods. He said right-wing protests have not been given such free rein.
He condemned violence “from all sides” at the start of his remarks before tearing into the media he has long viewed as hostile toward him.
Also at the Cabinet meeting, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who is the country’s “alternate” prime minister under a power-sharing deal, said the protests must be allowed to take place with demonstrators shielded from violence.
“The right to protest is the lifeblood of democracy and violence is the erosion of the foundation of democracy,” he said.
Netanyahu’s tirade came as a Jerusalem court ruled that his son Yair Netanyahu must remove a tweet that published the names, addresses and phone numbers of prominent protesters and called for his followers to demonstrate outside their homes “day and night.” Protesters said they received threatening calls after the tweet. The court also decided he must “refrain from harassing” the protesters for six months.
“Turns out that in our ‘democracy’ you aren’t allowed to protest outside the homes of anarchists who have called to for the prime minister’s murder,” tweeted Yair Netanyahu after the ruling. The 28-year-old has emerged as a driving force in a counterattack against his father’s critics.
Throughout the summer, thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets, calling for Netanyahu to resign, protesting his handling of the country’s coronavirus crisis and saying he should not remain in office while on trial. Though Netanyahu has tried to play down the protests, the twice-a-week gatherings show no signs of slowing, and Saturday night’s Jerusalem gathering drew more than 10,000 people.
The rallies against Netanyahu are the largest Israel has seen since 2011 protests over the country’s high cost of living.
After moving quickly to contain the virus last spring, many believe Israel reopened its economy too quickly, leading to a surge in cases. The country is now coping with record levels of coronavirus, while unemployment has surged to over 20%.
Netanyahu faces charges of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in a series of scandals involving wealthy associates and media moguls. He denies wrongdoing.


Yemen’s UNESCO-listed Old Sanaa houses collapse in heavy rains

Updated 19 min 43 sec ago

Yemen’s UNESCO-listed Old Sanaa houses collapse in heavy rains

  • Distinctive brown and white mud brick houses of Sanaa’s historic neighborhoods have long been under threat from conflict and neglect
SANAA: Houses in Yemen’s UNESCO-listed Old City of Sanaa are collapsing under heavy rains, as months of floods and storms assail a country already reeling from war, food shortages and disease.
The distinctive brown and white mud brick houses of Sanaa’s historic neighborhoods, which date from before the 11th century, have long been under threat from conflict and neglect.
Muhammad Ali Al-Talhi’s house partially collapsed on Friday as heavy rain battered Sanaa, leaving the six women and six children of his family homeless.
“Everything we had is buried,” he said surrounded by ancient debris and mud, appealing for help to find shelter.
Aqeel Saleh Nassar, deputy head of the Historic Cities Preservation Authority, said citizens today do not maintain these old buildings as in the past, leading to cracks and weakness.
Around 5,000 of the towering buildings in the old city have leaky roofs and 107 have partially collapsed roofs, he said. The authority has been working with UNESCO and other funds to preserve some.
This year’s exceptionally heavy rains, which began mid-April and last into early September, have added to what the United Nations describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Five years of war have killed more than 100,000 people, and left 80 percent of the population reliant on aid and millions on the brink of famine.
On top of the new coronavirus, which is believed to be spreading largely undetected, heavy rains spread diseases like cholera, dengue fever and malaria.
The Iran-aligned Houthi authorities who have controlled Sanaa since ousting the internationally recognized Saudi-backed Yemeni government in late 2014, appealed this week to UNESCO to save the city’s heritage.
They said around 111 houses had partly or completely collapsed in recent weeks.
Sanaa resident Adel San’ani on Saturday told Reuters he saw five houses severely damaged this weekend.
“The families have no shelter. A local bank launched a campaign to distribute plastic sheeting to act as roofs,” he said.