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18 arrested in violent clashes between police and ultra-Orthodox in Jerusalem

Police say 2 officers injured, number of vehicles damaged during operation to enforce virus regulations

Police officers clash with ultra-Orthodox protesters during a demonstration against the enforcement of coronavirus regulations in Mea Shearim, Jerusalem, October 4, 2020 (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Police officers clash with ultra-Orthodox protesters during a demonstration against the enforcement of coronavirus regulations in Mea Shearim, Jerusalem, October 4, 2020 (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Police said Monday morning that they arrested 18 people overnight in Jerusalem for allegedly disturbing the peace and throwing stones at officers during an operation to enforce coronavirus regulations in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in the city.

Police said two officers were injured, but no details were given on the extent of their wounds.

A number of vehicles were damaged during the clashes, including police cars, vehicles belonging to the municipality and cars belonging to private citizens.

Video aired by the Kan public broadcaster showed one man being arrested while onlookers told the officers that he had special needs.

As police have stepped up enforcement of regulations, there has been increasing anger in the ultra-Orthodox community and accusations of disproportionate force, including against children.

Ultra-Orthodox protestors demonstrate against the enforcement of coronavirus regulations in Mea Shearim, Jerusalem, October 4, 2020 (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Clashes began on Sunday following numerous reports over the weekend of illegal prayer gatherings in synagogues and other institutions.

Some spiritual leaders, concerned that adhering to the nationwide lockdown would cause many to halt their Torah studies, have ordered synagogues and yeshivas to stay open and to shun those who report the violations to authorities, according to Channel 13 news.

Thirteen people were detained in Bnei Brak Sunday during violent clashes that erupted as police tried to shutter a synagogue in the ultra-Orthodox city, where hundreds were praying in violation of the coronavirus lockdown.

Ultra-Orthodox men block a police vehicle attempting to enforce coronavirus lockdown rules in Bnei Brak, October 4, 2020. (Screenshot: Twitter)

Besides violating the restrictions on gatherings in enclosed spaces, police said, most worshipers were not wearing masks or adhering to social distancing rules. After cops began handing out fines, the worshipers “began resisting and disturbing public order,” according to police. Haredi men at the synagogue called officers “Nazis,” and urged them to “go back to Germany,” according to footage from the scene.

Videos showed violent arrests of some of the protesters, sparking accusations of disproportionate force. In one video, a cop could be seen violently kneeing a man in the face, as several other officers wrestled him to the ground. Other clips showed worshipers again gathering in the synagogue, despite the police effort to close it down.

In the settlement of Beitar Illit on Sunday, officers working to disperse illegal gatherings clashed with members of the local community, and arrested several of them.

A video emerged showing a police officer hurling a bucket at a young boy before arresting him. Police later said they had asked the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department to look into the incident. It was not immediately clear what preceded the incident, which prompted social media condemnation of police.

Criticism of the ultra-Orthodox community has been growing in recent days, with reports showing that a significant number are disregarding lockdown restrictions during the Sukkot holiday, including by continuing to host mass gatherings.

The ultra-Orthodox have seen sky-high coronavirus infection rates with an assessment last week finding that the rate of infection in the community is 2.5 times that of the national average.

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