IDF Chief of Staff Kochavi visits Bnei Brak as troops are deployed

Troops begin to distribute food to seniors; Defense Ministry provides 63 additional ventilators.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi in Bnei Brak on Sunday April 5 2020 (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi in Bnei Brak on Sunday April 5 2020
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi visited the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) city of Bnei Brak on Sunday. A few hours earlier, soldiers were deployed there in an effort to stem the spread of coronavirus.   
Kochavi visited the military’s food distribution center. He was accompanied by OC Home Front Command Maj.-Gen. Tamir Yedai, OC Paratroopers Brigade Brig.-Gen. Yaron Finkelman and other senior commanders. 
“The phrase people’s army is getting a different importance in light of IDF soldiers performing this life-saving mission,” Kochavi said. “It is an expression of reciprocal responsibility for the people of Israel. We will continue to increase our assistance to local government to anywhere needed, widely and quickly. I am proud of your actions.” 
Kochavi wore a protective mask during his visit. He finished a one-week self-quarantine on Friday after being in contact with a confirmed coronavirus patient. 
Earlier on Sunday, the IDF said OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Nadav Padan had entered self-quarantine after being in contact with a coronavirus patient last week. 
“Last Friday, OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Nadav Padan was present in the Samaria Regional Brigade when he was staying near a civilian who turned out to be a verified patient,” the IDF said, adding that the “general feels good and is without symptoms” and will continue to maintain his regular schedule. 
Soldiers from Home Front Command, assisted by paratroopers, took responsibility for Bnei Brak on Sunday. 
They have begun providing food to at-risk populations, including the elderly and disabled, and evacuating sick individuals as part of Operation Laser Beam. 
“The division is ready to perform the national mission of saving lives,” the IDF said in a statement. “Home Front Command will continue to help curb the spread of the coronavirus and save lives.” 
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, who visited Bnei Brak, said the military has delivered 12,000 hot meals to its elderly population, disabled, those who cannot leave their homes and to families who receive welfare support. 
“The IDF and Home Front Command are prepared to operate in any city where they are needed,” he said. “This warms the heart. Together we will overcome the coronavirus.” 
Overseeing the IDF’s operations in haredi population centers are:
former OC Central Command  Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Roni Numa in Bnei Brak; Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Gal Hirsch in Elad; and Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yossi Bachar in Betar Illit.
With Passover beginning Wednesday evening, soldiers have begun to distribute food to senior citizens across the country. Following an agreement with the Defense Ministry to distribute food to some 350,000 seniors for Passover, troops from Home Front Command began to put together some 20,000 food packages to be distributed in the central part of the country.
On Sunday morning, the Prime Minister’s Office announced the Defense Ministry would provide aid to nursing homes and assisted-living facilities across the country, where at least 10 residents have died and more are in serious condition from the coronavirus.
The Defense Ministry has provided an additional 63 locally manufactured ventilators to the Health Ministry from a second production line established for the fight against the coronavirus. 
“The State of Israel is developing independent capabilities in its fight against COVID-19,” Bennett said. “This independence is essential to the national effort. We must not remain dependent on procurement from other countries. The Defense Ministry and the IDF will continue to operate in full force within the national campaign against corona.” 
Additional ventilators will be manufactured in the coming weeks, the IDF said.