Netanyahu urges Beirut neighborhood to 'act now' over alleged Hezbollah arms depot

Netanyahu urges Beirut neighborhood to 'act now' over alleged Hezbollah arms depot”

Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said Tuesday that there was "no way" the country's second nationwide coronavirus lockdown would be lifted after three weeks as originally planned.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday accused Lebanon's Hezbollah of storing weapons next to a gas company in a residential neighborhood of Beirut, urging local residents there to "act now" by protesting against the depot.

Israel imposed its second lockdown on September 18 after the coronavirus infection rate soared.

Beyond shuttering schools and cultural events, the lockdown has closed the vast majority of workplaces, markets and places of worship.

Bickering within Netanyahu's coalition government prevented street protests from being included in activities restricted by the one-kilometre limit, such as family visits, before the Yom Kippur Jewish fasting day on Monday. The ministry said Tuesday the country has for the first time surpassed the US, one of the world's worst-hit countries, in per capita daily coronavirus deaths.

Meir Cohen, from the main opposition party Yesh Atid-Telem, condemned the new curbs on demonstrations as a "slippery slope".

Israel has recorded more than 233,000 infections and 1,507 deaths in a population of nine million.

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Yair Golan, of the leftwing Meretz party, warned that the new law "won't stop the demonstrations".

For months, Israel has witnessed massive weekly demonstrations staged in front of Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, calling for him to resign over corruption charges, as well as his mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis.

The controversial, government-backed laws was adopted on Wednesday following a heated all-night debate within the Knesset.

"There are no health considerations in this legislation, rather a sweeping prohibition on demonstrating against a prime minister accused of bribery, fraud and a breach of trust", the movement said.

Beirut is still reeling from an August 4 explosion when a huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate exploded in the port, killing more than 190 people, wounding thousands and ravaging large parts of the city.

At a cabinet meeting on Wednesday evening focused on the lockdown, Netanyahu said that lifting restrictions "will be slow" and that it could be "between six months and a year" until normal life resumes.

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