Israeli police on Saturday said they had flooded central Tel Aviv with officers and closed main thoroughfares, ahead of a rally by critics of the government’s handling of the COVID 19 crisis.
“Hundreds of police will be deployed in a number of security cordons,” a police statement said. “The mission is protection of the participants and preservation of public order.”
Organisers of the protests said they expected thousands of Israel’s self-employed to turn out in protest at what they say is the government’s abandonment of them after forcing their businesses to close under coronavirus regulations.
Student unions said they would also take part in the event at the city’s Rabin Square, to show their concern at the large numbers of young people made jobless by closures.
Israel imposed a broad lockdown from the middle of March, allowing only staff deemed essential to go to work and banning public assembly.
Places of entertainment were closed, hitting the leisure industry hard.
Facing public and economic pressure, the government eased restrictions in late May.
Infection numbers mounted and rules were tightened again, including the closure of event venues, clubs, bars, gyms and public pools.
While salaried workers sent on furlough received unemployment benefits, the self-employed said that most had been waiting months for promised government aid to reach them.
“There is a very grave crisis of confidence between us and the government,” Shai Berman, one of the protest organisers told Israeli public radio.
“We are part of a very large public which is feeling growing distress and wants to demonstrate and simply does not believe the promises,” he added.
On Friday the health ministry announced the highest number of coronavirus infections over a 24-hour period, with nearly 1,500 new cases confirmed.
The country of roughly nine million has now registered more than 36,000 cases, including over 350 deaths.
No update had been published by Saturday afternoon.
Berman, head of the Bars and Restaurants association said that the evening rally would be non-partisan.
“Politicians will not be making speeches,” he said. “The only ones who will go up on the stage are those from the grassroots who will tell their stories.”