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protest outside the Defense Ministry

Israeli veterans and disabled soldiers protest outside the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, April 18, 2021.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with disabled Israel Defense Force veterans on Sunday in Tel Aviv, hours after hundreds of veterans blocked the city’s Ayalon highway in protest against their treatment by the Defense Ministry.

The protests came after IDF veteran Itzik Saidian set himself alight on Tuesday outside the offices of the Defense Ministry’s Rehabilitation Department in Petah Tikva. Saidian, 26, has suffered from PTSD since taking part in “Operation Protective Edge” in Gaza in 2014. He remains in critical condition at the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer.

Netanyahu told IDF Disabled Veterans Organization chairman Idan Kleiman that reform was long overdue with regard to veterans’ treatment.

“The distress of disabled and wounded IDF veterans is real,” he said, noting that the arrangements made for them by the state had not been updated in many years.

“Both ‘first aid’ and comprehensive reforms are needed,” he said.

Netanyahu said that he would bring both to the Cabinet “within two weeks.”

Kleiman thanked the prime minister, saying the veterans’ plight needed to be addressed immediately.

“The pain is truly very great,” he said, adding, “we are in very difficult times.”

Sunday’s protests began at IDF Central Headquarters at the Kirya in Tel Aviv, where the Defense Ministry building is also located. It then moved towards the Ayalon highway, where protesters blocked traffic lanes in both directions at the Hashalom intersection.

According to Ynet, more than a third of requests for recognition of disability following military operations have been rejected by the Rehabilitation

Department, while some 70 percent of appeals are rejected.

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