Thousands of Israelis brave coronavirus to protest for democracy

Benjamin Netanyahu is under criminal indictment in three corruption cases

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Wearing face masks, waving black flags and keeping two metres  apart, thousands of Israelis rallied against anti-democratic measures imposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the coronavirus crisis.

Mr Netanyahu is under criminal indictment in three corruption cases but denies any wrongdoing.

He is also negotiating a power-sharing deal with rival Benny Gantz to form a coalition government that would end a year of political impasse after three inconclusive elections.

Protests are allowed under Israel's coronavirus restrictions, as long as people socially-distance and wear face masks.

The “Black Flag” demonstrations begun last month and are in response to stringent coronavirus policies that include tracking civilians through their mobile phones.

Under the banner of "Save the Democracy," protesters called on Mr Gantz's Blue and White party not to join a coalition led by a man charged with corruption.

He has campaigned for clean government but said the coronavirus crisis forced him to go back on his election pledge.

About 2,000 demonstrators attended the rally in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, Israeli media said.

Israel has reported more than 13,000 coronavirus cases and 172 deaths.

Its health ministry said on Sunday that more than 3,500 patients had recovered and been discharged from hospital.

The past few days have seen a slowdown in new confirmed cases.

A partial lockdown has confined most Israelis to their homes, forced businesses to close and sent unemployment to about 26 per cent.

A Cabinet vote in the early hours of Sunday approved measures including the reopening of high street shops, schools for children with special needs and a resumption of small prayer meetings.

Most of the measures take effect from Sunday, while selected schools will reopen their doors to pupils on Tuesday, the education ministry said.