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Bonfires burn on the highway as Israelis protest removal of Tel Aviv police commander

TEL AVIV (JTA) — Thousands of people blocked Tel Aviv’s central highway and other major roads in Israel on Wednesday night, as protests surrounding Israel’s proposed judicial overhaul continue to heat up. Some lit bonfires on the road and clashed with police

Dozens of people were arrested in the protests, and police dispersed the demonstrations using mounted officers and water cannons. One man was injured when he was hit by a car that drove through the crowd on the highway. Protests continued Thursday as demonstrators blocked a highway in the coastal city of Binyamina.

The impetus for Wednesday’s protests, which coalesced beginning around 9 p.m. in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and other locations, was the resignation of Amichai Eshed, the Tel Aviv district police commander. Eshed had clashed with Itamar Ben-Gvir, the far-right national security minister, who wanted him to crack down more harshly on the antigovernment protests that have amassed weekly this year in Tel Aviv’s streets. Ben-Gvir had attempted to fire Eshed in March, a decision that was frozen by Israel’s attorney general.

Facing a demotion, Eshed instead quit his post on Wednesday, saying in an address  that he was “paying a heavy personal price for my choice to prevent civil war.”

The protests are the latest in six months of demonstrations against the Israeli government’s efforts to strip the Supreme Court of its power and independence. Tens of thousands of Israelis have gathered in the streets to oppose the plan every Saturday night, and this week, the protests have intensified as Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, has advanced a piece of the overhaul effort that would restrict the court’s ability to strike down decisions made by nationally elected officials.

On Monday, thousands of Israelis gathered in the main terminal of Ben-Gurion International Airport, filling the arrivals hall and clogging the roads around the airport. More than 50 people were detained at that demonstration, which had been planned days in advance and took place despite opposition from the Israel Police.

Protesters in Tel Aviv on July 5, 2023. (Ben Sales)

Wednesday’s protest was more spontaneous, with smaller groups of people gathering at night on the thoroughfare that serves as the protests’ usual spot. Larger crowds had come together on ramps that led to the Ayalon Highway, standing atop medians and climbing into the lanes themselves. The crowds were still there around midnight, though they were cleared out soon afterward. Some protesters were sitting in rows on the asphalt and others gathered around a bonfire that crackled into an already hot night. People cheered them on from bridges and balconies surrounding the city’s Azrieli Mall.

Many attendees waved the Israeli flags that have become a symbol of the protests, and wore T-shirts with pro-democracy or antigovernment slogans. One man waved a large flag with the red-and-black logo of anti-fascist groups. It was a smaller version of the protests that erupted in March after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired his defense minister for criticizing the judicial reform – a decision Netanyahu later reversed.

“This is a celebration of democracy,” said a woman from Tel Aviv waving an Israeli flag who gave her name as Efrat. The protesters, she said, “care about the state. We want to live, we want a future here.”

In Jerusalem, protesters clashed with police officers in the center of the city as tense, sometimes physical, encounters between protesters and advocates of the reforms dotted the streets in the surrounding neighborhood. One man carrying a handwritten sign reading “End the Tyranny of the Supreme Court” in Hebrew distributed stickers with the same message and received both angry criticism and support from passersby.

A supporter of proposed judicial reforms in Israel debates an opponent on the streets of Jerusalem, July 5, 2023. (Philissa Cramer)

Senior Israeli government officials, meanwhile, condemned the protesters as well as Eshed. Amichai Eliyahu, a cabinet minister from the far-right Otzma Yehudit, or Jewish Power, party, referred to the Tel Aviv commander as “pus” in an interview with Israeli media. And Bezalel Smotrich, the far-right finance minister, liked a tweet that showed a video of the car driving through the crowd of protesters, and described it as someone “who insists on his fundamental right to freedom of movement.”

“Responsibility for the chaos on the Ayalon Highway rests with law enforcement and the police, who have lost control against the anarchists who are blocking the Ayalon again and again and again,” Smotrich wrote in a separate tweet, also accusing the police of “selective enforcement” that favors left-wing demonstrators.

Philissa Cramer contributed reporting from Jerusalem.

The post Bonfires burn on the highway as Israelis protest removal of Tel Aviv police commander appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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IDF Announces Major Eyal Shuminov Killed by Anti-Tank Missile in Gaza

Eyal Shuminov. Photo: IDF Spokesperson


i24 NewsDuring a raid on Gaza’s Zeytun neighborhood, Major Eyal Shuminov of the Givati Brigade was tragically killed by an anti-tank missile.

The incident occurred when IDF forces identified a Hamas terrorist on the roof of a building and subsequently eliminated him.

Major Shuminov, a company commander in the Shaked Battalion (424) of the Givati Brigade, hailed from Karmiel and was just 24 years old at the time of his death. The IDF announced that he fell in battle on the 24th of Adar HaSphad (February 24, 2024).

His death marks the loss of 238 IDF soldiers since the start of the ground invasion in Gaza.

Following his death, Major Shuminov was posthumously promoted from the rank of captain to the rank of major. The IDF has extended its condolences to Major Shuminov’s family and pledged to continue supporting them during this difficult time.

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Netanyahu: Cabinet Will Vote on Rafah Operation Next Week

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct. 28, 2023. Photo: ABIR SULTAN POOL/Pool via REUTERS

i24 NewsPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has revealed plans for a cabinet meeting next week to finalize the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) strategy for an operation in Rafah, including the evacuation of civilians from the area.

The decision comes amid ongoing negotiations with Hamas regarding the release of hostages held by the militant group.

In a statement posted on social media platform X on Saturday, Netanyahu emphasized the importance of reaching a new framework for the release of hostages and the completion of the elimination of Hamas battalions in Rafah. He underscored the necessity of a combination of military pressure and diplomatic negotiations to achieve these objectives.

“We are working to obtain another outline for the release of our hostages, as well as the completion of the elimination of the Hamas battalions in Rafah. That is why I sent a delegation to Paris, and tonight, we will discuss the next steps in the negotiations,” Netanyahu stated in his post.

אנו פועלים להשיג מתווה נוסף לשחרור חטופינו, וכן את השלמת חיסול גדודי החמאס ברפיח.

לכן שלחתי משלחת לפריז ונדון הערב בצעדים הבאים במו״מ,

ולכן בתחילת השבוע אכנס את הקבינט לאישור התוכניות המבצעיות לפעולה ברפיח, כולל פינוי האוכלוסייה האזרחית משם.

רק שילוב של לחץ צבאי ומשא ומתן תקיף…

— Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) February 24, 2024

The prime minister’s announcement signals a significant escalation in Israel’s approach to the ongoing conflict, with plans for a potential military operation in Rafah gaining momentum.

Netanyahu concluded his statement by reaffirming the government’s determination to achieve its goals in the war, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive strategy that combines military action with diplomatic efforts.

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IDF Chief of Staff: Fighting is Key for Negotiating Hostages’ Release

IDF Chief of Staff. Photo: IDF Spokesperson

i24 NewsIn a recent assessment of the situation in the northern Gaza Strip, the Chief of Staff, alongside other military commanders, emphasized the crucial role of the ongoing fighting effort in negotiations for the release of abducted individuals.

During the assessment, which took place on Saturday, the Chief of Staff, accompanied by Major General Yaron Finkelman, commander of the Southern Command, and Lieutenant Colonel Itzik Cohen, commander of Division 162, discussed the progress and strategy in the conflict zone.

The Chief of Staff’s remarks shed light on the multifaceted approach being taken to deepen military achievements in the region. He highlighted the importance of returning to areas with improved intelligence to make more significant advancements, both tactically and strategically.

These efforts, he noted, not only target enemy combatants but also aim to dismantle infrastructure and clear territories to enhance operational effectiveness.

Addressing the ongoing negotiations for the release of abductees, the Chief of Staff emphasized the interconnectedness between military achievements and diplomatic endeavors. He underscored the pivotal role of the fighting effort in exerting pressure on Hamas, thereby potentially facilitating the release of kidnapped individuals.

“The fighting effort is the most effective action that helps those who carry and give in all kinds of places for the release of the kidnapped,” stated the Chief of Staff. “This is the lever we are taking down on Hamas, and you are taking it down very well.”

The Chief of Staff’s remarks underscore the complex interplay between military operations and diplomatic negotiations in conflict zones. While the focus remains on achieving military objectives, there is also a recognition of the broader strategic goals, including the safe return of abducted individuals.

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