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US defence secretary in Israel as protests target Netanyahu


Top military leader Lloyd Austin lands in Tel Aviv as demonstrations over the government’s controversial judicial reforms swelled at Israel’s main airport.

(Al Jazeera) – US defence secretary Lloyd Austin has arrived in Israel during a surge in protests against the government’s judicial overhaul plans, with thousands of people calling for a “day of resistance to dictatorship”.

Austin, who is on a regional tour, landed at Ben Gurion Airport, where hundreds of protesters gathered on Thursday. He was greeted on the tarmac by Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant and was due to have a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

However, the visit by the Pentagon chief came as Israeli demonstrators intensified their opposition to a contentious government proposal to reform the judiciary.

Protesters waving Israeli flags descended on the country’s international airport, blocking the main road leading to the departures area with their cars. The disruption snarled traffic and it was not clear if and how Netanyahu would reach the airport.

Police handed out traffic tickets as protesters held signs reading, “Dictator: don’t come back”. Security officers could be seen pushing and shoving demonstrators outside the facility.

Israel’s public broadcaster Kan reported Netanyahu would fly by helicopter to the airport, circumventing the protesters. The prime minister’s office declined to comment.

“Israel is on the verge of becoming an autocratic country. The current government is trying to destroy our democracy and actually destroy the country,” said Savion Or, a protester in Tel Aviv.

The police, overseen by ultranationalist national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, pledged to prevent disturbances and said they had already made arrests as the protests got underway.

Read more.


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