Thousands of Israelis protest against Netanyahu ahead of election

People are seen during a protest outside the residence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on March 20, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JERUSALEM (REUTERS) - Thousands of Israelis demonstrated outside the residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Saturday (March 20), calling for an end to his leadership just three days before the country's fourth election in two years.

Protesters filed through streets closed to traffic by police, waving flags, banging drums, blowing horns and shouting chants to replace the 71-year-old conservative.

The crowd was larger than many previous anti-Netanyahu protests over the past year, with Israeli media reporting it numbered about 20,000.

Though his right-wing Likud is expected to emerge as the biggest party in the March 23 ballot, opinion polls predict no clear winner with a majority in Parliament or able to form a government - similar to the three previous elections.

Pressure has mounted in the election run-up on Mr Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption and accused by critics of mismanaging the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Netanyahu is hoping that the success of his government's rapid Covid-19 vaccination programme, which has allowed much of the economy to open after three lockdowns, along with a series of normalisation agreements with Arab countries, will give him the boost needed to secure a majority in parliament.

Mr Netanyahu faces charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, all of which he denies.

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