Thousands of protesters in Tel Aviv staged a joint Jewish-Arab rally on Saturday against the Israeli government’s plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.

The protest came weeks before the government is expected to push forward on annexation, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to begin doing by 1 July.

Palestinians want the West Bank as the heartland of their future state and see annexation as the death knell to their hopes for statehood.

Protesters also demonstrated against what they see as excessive violence by Israeli police against Palestinians and drew a line between violence by police in the US and by Israeli forces – showing solidarity for worldwide protests following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.

“Brutal force is being waged against innocent people across the world and there’s not much difference between what’s happening in Minneapolis and what’s happening in Jerusalem,” said protester Micah Kaminer.

Protesters held signs showing Iyad Halak, an unarmed Palestinian with autism who was killed last week by Israeli police officers after a chase in Jerusalem’s Old City. Other signs read “Palestinian Lives Matter.”

While protesters wore masks, social distancing measures were not strictly maintained as some demonstrators formed small groups.

Police had initially sought to block the rally, citing concerns of holding gatherings during the pandemic, although the country has seen numerous demonstrations since the outbreak began.

They later allowed the demonstration to take place.

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