IDF and police gear up for Passover holiday with more troops deployed to help

Thousands of tons of food to be delivered to troops, residents of Bnei Brak; police to enforce government regulations over holiday.

Latet, IFCJ, and Others Join Ranks with IDF in Battle Against Coronavirus  (photo credit: IFCJ - PR OF LATET)
Latet, IFCJ, and Others Join Ranks with IDF in Battle Against Coronavirus
(photo credit: IFCJ - PR OF LATET)
With the country facing a nationwide lockdown ahead of the Passover holiday, the IDF has deployed hundreds of more troops to accompany Israel police officers to enforce the regulations imposed by the government to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
A total of 1,400 unarmed IDF soldiers — up from the previous 700 — will accompany police to enforce the strict guidelines which ban large gatherings and travel outside the home save for buying food or medicine.
Police Spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld told The Jerusalem Post that the police are “continuing to implement” the government’s decision on the ground, making sure that people are leaving their homes only for absolutely necessary reasons.
“We are giving people fines of NIS 500 shekel whether we like it or not... We have no choice but we need people to stay at home because if not the virus will continue to spread and it will get out of control,” he said.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri on Sunday night called for Israelis to prepare for a potential nationwide closure, telling Channel 12 that anyone driving that evening could be stopped by police.
According to Rosenfeld, extra police units were already located on major highways and in cities with moving roadblocks on Sunday to prevent people who were trying to reach their family ahead of the Passover holiday.
“We are asking people across the country to stay home and carry out the holiday with their immediate family to minimize even the family connection” in an attempt to stop the spread of the deadly virus, he said.
In an attempt to curb the continued spread of the highly infectious and deadly virus, Bnei Brak has been turned into a “restricted” city, with residents only allowed to leave for specific reasons and troops from the Homefront Command, along with soldiers from the Paratroopers Brigade, are assisting local authorities.
The two brigades worth of unarmed soldiers have begun providing food to at-risk populations such as the elderly and disabled as well as the evacuation of sick individuals as part of “Operation Laser Beam.”
“As combat soldiers, we have been taught that wherever Israeli citizens are in need, our job is to help, to help and save as many lives as possible,” said Brig.-Gen. Yaron Finkelman, the commander of 98th Paratroopers Division. “We will do our best in the coming days to strengthen the city and complete the preparations for Passover. The mission of helping the city of Bnei Brak is, for me, a symbol of mutual guarantee and social solidarity, which has always characterized the IDF and the State of Israel.”
Troops have also been ordered to help with the evacuation of those sick with the coronavirus, and according to the senior officer some 30 sick patients have been evacuated since Sunday morning.
“It's a different mission from our regular ones, but officers and troops are very motivated,” the senior officer told reporters, adding that troops — who understand that it’s not their usual combat missions — will continue to operate in the city as long as necessary.
On Monday the city of Ramat Gan was ordered by the Interior Ministry to take down makeshift fences and checkpoints that they had put up with Bnei Brak overnight. According to a statement released by the municipality, the fences were put up to stop pedestrian traffic in and out of Bnei Brak into Ramat Gan, something they say the police has not stopped.
“So long as the Israel Police doesn’t block the entrance points, and so long as the movement between cities is forbidden by law, the responsibility for public health leads us to the conclusion that it is appropriate and correct to plug all openings,” the statement read.
The military has also taken responsibility for some 450 geriatric facilities around the country, with some 18,000 soldiers teaching staff how to better protect residents and themselves with protective gear. The troops will also screen people for fevers before they enter the facilities and disinfect any areas where an infected person has been.
The military is also preparing to deliver thousands of tons of food to IDF soldiers and residents of the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak affected by the deadly coronavirus for the upcoming Passover holiday.
As of Monday afternoon, troops from the military’s 98th Division had delivered over 15,000 prepackaged meals — made by private caterers — to the city’s elderly population, those who are disabled and unable to leave their apartments and to families who receive welfare support.
In the coming hours, troops will begin to distribute some 1,000 tons of food goods including fresh fruits and vegetables as well as hygiene products like toilet paper to residents based on information from the municipality, welfare services and from individual requests given to the military.
Lone soldiers and soldiers from low-income families will also be receiving help for the Passover holiday from the IDF in order to reduce the economic pressures caused by the coronavirus. Instead of NIS 400 that lone soldiers usually receive for the holiday, they will automatically receive NIS 600 by April 7th.
Some 1,600 lone soldiers who live in their own apartments will also receive a food package, with matzah, Haggadot and passover plate for the holiday delivered by the military.
In addition, the military will also give NIS 500-1200 to soldiers from low-income families based on various criteria. Troops whose family is under financial pressure after their parents have been laid off because of the virus will also be able to get financial help from the military.