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IDF reports 1,190 cases as of Saturday, 13,038 in quarantine

IDF cancels leave for combat troops, soldiers in training amid coronavirus surge

Furlough ban to remain in place for 30 days; soldiers on ‘open bases,’ who go home each night, to operate in strict ‘capsules’ with no contact between them

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Israeli soldiers wear face masks at a police roadblock in Tel Aviv during the nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, September 19, 2020 (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Israeli soldiers wear face masks at a police roadblock in Tel Aviv during the nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, September 19, 2020 (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The Israel Defense Forces on Sunday canceled all leave for combat troops and soldiers in training for at least the next month amid a spike in coronavirus infections in the military.

As of Saturday night, over 1,190 soldiers, officers, non-commissioned officers and civilian employees of the military had tested positive for the disease — all of them with light symptoms — and another 13,038 servicemembers were in quarantine. This was nearly double the amount of confirmed cases as there were two weeks ago, 622.

The military said the decision to halt furlough was made by IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi following an “ongoing situational assessment in the IDF and following a General Staff situational assessment.”

The move would not affect soldiers serving on so-called “open bases,” who go home most nights, but would only be applied to those on “closed bases,” who live in their units for extended periods. This would also apply only to conscript soldiers on these bases, not to officers, non-commissioned officers and other personnel.

“Exemptions would only be approved by a commander with the rank of major general,” the IDF said.

Troops on open bases would continue to operate on a system of “capsules” — shifts of soldiers with no contact between them — to ensure that if any servicemembers became infected, it would not spread widely.

“All combat troops, people serving on training bases or closed bases should arrive to their bases on Tuesday ready to remain there for an extended period, for a period of 30 days,” the IDF said in a statement.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi visits the city of Bnei Brak in central Israel, which is largely closed off from the rest of the country due to a coronavirus outbreak, on April 5, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel has seen a nationwide spike in coronavirus infections, with over 8,000 cases confirmed on Friday alone.

In a statement, Kohavi said the military had to step up its restrictions in light of this outbreak.

“The infection situation in the civilian arena and in the IDF requires us to take a series of steps to tighten and intensify the rules for all units of the military,” the army chief said.

Kohavi said the move was necessary to ensure the “fitness of the military to perform its security missions.”

The military chief said the IDF, which has been tasked with key aspects of the country’s coronavirus response, needed to serve as a model to the rest of the country for how to act.

“It is on us as a military, from the first soldier to the last commander, to act as an example these days, to carry out our goal at this time of preserving the security of the state and cooperating fully in the fight against the coronavirus,” Kohavi said.

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