Gantz: Thousands of IDF soldiers will go to 'red zones'

The IDF announced Friday that 500 soldiers would help police enforce lockdowns starting Monday morning.

 Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Thousands of IDF soldiers will be sent to the 40 “red cities” across Israel in an attempt to lower the number of coronavirus cases in the country, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Monday morning.
“As of today, I have ordered the placement of thousands of IDF soldiers and Liaison Officers to the Local Authorities in the red cities, in addition to activities for the "Alon" headquarters, which coordinates the work to cut the chain of infections,” Gantz said while on a visit to the city of Kfar Kassem.
Gantz visited the Arab-Israeli city with one of the highest morbidity numbers along with Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir and other senior IDF officers. The mayor of the city Adel Badir joined them via Zoom.
Praising the municipality for its cooperation with security and health officials, the defense minister said he hoped that other red zones would be just as cooperative to reduce the number of cases and deaths caused by the deadly virus.
“We did not come to punish, we came to work together,” he said. “I hope that other authorities are equally cooperative, along with the residents, and show discipline and responsibility and adhere to the guidelines – in particular [regarding] holding events which are the most likely place to get infected. I am telling everyone: It’s impossible to have regular weddings.”
On Friday, the head of the IDF’s Homefront Command Maj.-Gen. Uri Gordin told reporters that beginning on Monday morning and following a request from the Israel Police and the Public Security Ministry, some 500 IDF troops will be assigned to the police to enforce the lockdown in the red cities.
Similar to the first wave, troops – who come from platoons in the midst of training – will not be armed and will help police enforce the lockdown by providing an increase in manpower.
The IDF’s “Alon” Coronavirus Command Center, led by Brig.-Gen. Nissan Davidi, operates at a national level to assist in breaking the chain of infections by improving the country’s testing capacity, while at the same time streamlining and connecting all the various government bodies and civilian organizations into one system operated by the Health Ministry.
Recent weeks have seen a surge in infections, with over 1,000 Israelis in total succumbing to the virus and hundreds more in serious condition.  
On Sunday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement saying that the virus “doesn’t differentiate between nations and populations” and that the classification of red cities was done according to the number and rate of infections.
“Right now, that is mainly in ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities,” Netanyahu said. “We must take steps that prevent infections at events and weddings and in schools. We will do what’s needed in a responsible way.”
While 40 cities and neighborhoods have been placed on the red list, Health Ministry officials have warned that another full national lockdown may be necessary to cut the chain of infection.