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Middle East
Scores arrested after Israel protests
Police say 85 detained after they vandalised banks to protest "police brutality' in Tel Aviv.
Last Modified: 24 Jun 2012 11:43
Activists have accused police of using brutal means to quell the social protests [AFP]

Eighty-five protesters have been arrested after clashing with officers and vandalising banks in the capital Tel Aviv, Israeli police say.

The Israeli demonstrators blocked roads and smashed bank windows in central Tel Aviv early on Sunday, following two days of social reform protests.

Demonstrations on Saturday which ran into the early hours of Sunday morning, were in protest to the detention of 12 activists a day earlier during social reform protests. They were also angered by reports that one of the arrested activists, Dafni Leef, had been injured during her arrest.

Leef, an activist leader, has since been released on bail but she said that police officers bruised and humiliated her after her detention on Friday. 

Hundreds of people took to the streets late on Saturday and some blocked main roads and scuffled with police. Police also said that protesters broke the windows of five banks. 

Local media reported that in one case, activists charged inside a bank and set up a tent, the symbol of protests against rising living costs that spread across the country last summer. 

'Illegal' protest

"We are talking here about an illegal protest ... It started yesterday with illegal protests and continued today with illegal protests with the intention of confronting policemen," said Aharon Exol, the police commander of Tel Aviv district.

"We will not allow this, every possible red line was crossed here, we will not allow this protest to become violent."

"[The police] simply aren't giving permits," Stav Shaffir, one of the protest organisers, told local newspaper Haaretz.

"In the last two months we've come to understand what was going on: They are playing with us, blocking our attempts, and making us wait for excessively long periods of time. This has been going on over and over again for many months,” he said.

Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman, said the arrests were made to prevent looting. 

He estimated there were 1,500 people taking part in the protests. But media reports gave a figure about four times higher. 

A grassroots protest movement that began last July as a cluster of student tent-squatters demanding lower living costs in Tel Aviv spread into a nation-wide mobilisation of
Israel's middle class.

Those rallies have been some of the largest in Israel's history and led the country's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu to form a panel led by economist Manuel Trajtenberg which has recommended raising welfare spending and lowering defence expenditure.

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