Cops enforcing virus rules scuffle with ultra-Orthodox in Beit Shemesh

Police say three arrested, cruiser damaged; videos show fracas between locals massed on street and officers, young kids hurling stones at car with soldier inside

Police in Beit Shemesh in conflict with ultra-Orthodox men on October 6, 2020. (video screenshot)
Police in Beit Shemesh in conflict with ultra-Orthodox men on October 6, 2020. (video screenshot)

Police clashed with ultra-Orthodox men and children in the central city of Beit Shemesh Tuesday afternoon, in the latest outbreak of violence between the community and authorities enforcing coronavirus regulations that ban mass gatherings.

Police said three people were arrested during scuffles that broke out after officers were pelted with stones and other objects while patrolling the Heftziba neighborhood to enforce the national lockdown. The police were also denounced as “Nazis.”

Several vehicles were damaged, according to a police statement. No officers were reported as injured.

In a video of the incident, an officer could be seen being hit in the face with what appeared to be a can. Another officer raised his fist as if to strike a man, as the scene developed into a melee.

At several points, police could be seen shoving and dragging people, including a teen boy.

In another video, small ultra-Orthodox children attacked a car carrying a soldier. In the video, young kids could be seen seeing hurling stones at the car, smashing windows, as adults look on and appear to encourage them.

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.

Another video from Beit Shemesh on Tuesday showed masses of people dancing and marching toward police, who retreated backwards.

The ultra-Orthodox have seen soaring 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. Spiraling infections across the country prompted the current lockdown, the second this year. Although initially scheduled to be lifted at the end of the Sukkot holiday, officials have said it will likely continue for at least a week longer before any easing of restrictions takes place.

Police said Monday 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.

There have also been clashes in the largely ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak and the ultra-Orthodox West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit.

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