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Israeli minister quits government over COVID-19 curbs on protests

Israeli minister quits government over COVID-19 curbs on protests

FILE PHOTO: Israelis protest against legislation banning them from holding demonstrations more than 1km from their homes, a measure the government said was aimed at curbing COVID-19 infections, in Tel Aviv, Israel Oct 1, 2020. (REUTERS/Ammar Awad)

JERUSALEM: Israel's tourism minister resigned on Friday (Oct 2) in protest at a new law that curbed demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying the measure left him without a "shred of trust" in the veteran leader.

Azaf Zamir will be replaced by Orit Farkash Hacohen, a fellow member of the Blue and White party, a party spokeswoman said.

"My conscience does not allow me to stay in a government that prevents de facto protests," Zamir said on Facebook. "Even at its most difficult time, Netanyahu runs the country according to his own political interest."

Netanyahu's right-wing Likud, which forged a coalition government with Blue and White in May after a close election, called Zamir's resignation an attempt to shore up support from liberal Israelis angry with the premier. Blue and White is led by Defence Minister Benny Gantz, a Netanyahu rival.

READ: Israel imposes second COVID-19 lockdown during high holidays

"Blue and White are sitting in a government while working against the government. It is time for them to decide whether to fight the disease, or fight the government," Likud said on Twitter.

Netanyahu has been facing protests over his handling of the coronavirus crisis and allegations of corruption, which he denies.

Parliament on Wednesday approved a government-backed edict banning Israelis from holding demonstrations more than 1km from their homes, tightening a second-wave coronavirus lockdown.

FILE PHOTO: A man is detained as Israelis protest against legislation banning them from holding demonstrations more than 1km from their homes, a measure the government said was aimed at curbing COVID-19 infections, in Tel Aviv, Israel Oct 1, 2020. (REUTERS/Ammar Awad/File Photo)

The government said it was aimed at curbing COVID-19 infections, but critics said its intention was to block protests near Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem.

Dozens protested in Tel Aviv on Thursday. Police said 12 were arrested over "public disturbances".

Opinion polls show only about a quarter of the public has confidence in Netanyahu's handling of the pandemic, which had largely subsided during a March-May lockdown.

READ: Israel minister says 'no way' COVID-19 lockdown will end soon

New COVID-19 cases in Israel have risen above 7,000 a day among its 9 million population, overtaxing some hospitals.

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Source: Reuters/kv

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