‘Israel sees one of its biggest-ever protests’

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis rallied against the government’s judicial plans on Saturday night, in what organisers said were the biggest street protests in Israel’s history.

Prime Minister Benjamin Net­anyahu says the changes – which would curb the power of courts – will restore balance between the branches of government.

Opponents say they threaten democracy. At one of Saturday’s rallies, opposition leader, Yair Lapid, said this was Israel’s “great­est crisis”.

In a separate development, Is­raeli troops shot dead three armed Palestinians near the West Bank city of Nablus on Sunday, the Is­raeli army said. It said the gunmen had fired at an Israeli army post.

Palestinian officials have not commented on the incident. There has been a marked surge in violence between Palestinians and Israel.

On Saturday, protest organisers said as many as 500,000 demon­strators took to the streets across Israel for the 10th consecutive week, in what the Haaretz newspa­per called “the largest demonstra­tion in the country’s history”.

About 200,000 people turned up in Tel Aviv, many carrying Israel’s national flag.

A BBC producer in Tel Aviv described the protests as the bus­iest yet, with a non-stop flow of demonstrators packing the streets until late into the night.

In remarkable scenes, protesters applauded police Chief, Amichai Eshed, as he walked in uniform through the rally.

Mr Netanyahu’s hardline government had earlier sought to remove the district commander – but the move was blocked by the country’s Attorney General.

The clash over the commander’s position is significant. It comes amid predictions of a possible constitutional crisis, involving Israel’s civil service and security forces being unable to take orders from the government, if no com­promise is reached on the planned reforms, says the BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem.

On Saturday, a record crowd of 50,000 marched in the northern city of Haifa.

Speaking in the southern city of Be’er Sheva, Mr Lapid warned that the country was facing an unprece­dented crisis. —BBC

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