Massive protests block roads, airport in Israel
Protesters in Israel have blocked roads and attempted to stop the prime minister from flying out the country amid nationwide demonstrations against controversial judicial reforms.
Vehicles obstructed access roads to Ben Gurion airport, from where Benjamin Netanyahu is due to fly to Rome.
The weeks-old protests are some of the biggest Israel has ever seen.
Critics say the reforms will undermine democracy; the government says planned changes are better for the electorate.
Thousands of protesters, many waving Israeli flags and carrying signs with slogans against the reforms, massed on main roads in Tel Aviv, causing major disruption to traffic.
A line of police on horseback stood by as the demonstrators flowed past, with some chanting to the police: “We’re also here for you,” Haaretz newspaper reported.
Meanwhile, convoys of cars streamed towards the airport from early morning, causing gridlock at the entrance to try to block Mr Netanyahu from leaving for Rome.
US Defence Secretary, Lloyd Austin, landed at the airport on Thursday and was reportedly forced to alter his schedule because of the protests.
Elsewhere, students in Haifa blocked one of the main entrances to the northern port city, while amid protests in Jerusalem, hundreds of military reservists demonstrated outside the offices of a pro-reform right-wing think tank.
Some blocked the entrance to the office with sandbags and seven reservists were arrested, local media reported.
In Israel, military service is compulsory, and most men are required to do reserve duty every year afterwards, mostly up until the age of 40.
The protests against the judicial reforms have been going on for about 10 weeks, bringing at times hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets.
The issue has caused deep divides in Israeli society, and significantly has seen reservists – the backbone of Israel’s military – threatening to refuse to serve as a way of showing their opposition. —BBC