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'Night of rage': Israelis rally in support of Netanyahu

Supporters say the corruption charges against the embattled prime minister are politically motivated
The rally on Tuesday comes two days after Netanyahu agreed to a leadership contest for the Likud Party (Reuters)

Thousands of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv in support of Benjamin Netanyahu, denouncing the legal charges against the embattled prime minister as a "coup".

The rally on Tuesday comes two days after Netanyahu agreed to a leadership contest for his Likud party, following a call for a primary challenge by senior parliament member Gideon Saar.

Last week, Netanyahu became the first sitting Israeli prime minister to be indicted after being charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust

The charges stem from several cases, including an alleged attempted deal to influence regulations in favour of a popular newspaper in exchange for better coverage.

On Tuesday, the demonstrators in Tel Aviv rejected the accusations, saying they were politically motivated, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

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Haaretz said about 2,000 demonstrators participated in the rally, while The Times of Israel newspaper put the turnout at around 5,000 people.

"The leftists invented all the conspiracy theories. Law enforcement bodies are the victim of the plot by the left and the media," Likud MP Miki Zohar said at the rally, as reported by The Times of Israel.

"The prime minister had a distorted investigation, a dirty investigation, an investigation of lies. And we are expected to remain silent?"

Others directed their anger at public prosecutor Shai Nitzan, with a video played at the demonstration calling him "corrupt".

The charges against Netanyahu, who is Israel's longest serving prime minister, coincided with a political deadlock in the country with Netanyahu's rival Benny Gantz failing to form a coalition government after the second inconclusive election this year.

Despite his legal troubles, Netanyahu does not have to step aside. Israel's Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced on Monday that Netanyahu remains fit for office unless convicted and after all appeals are exhausted.

At the rally in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu's supporters vowed to continue to back him as Israel faces the possibility of a third election.

"What they've done to Bibi is disgusting… I really do think there's nothing to the indictments against him," Rachel Levi, a Tel Aviv resident, told Haaretz. 

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