IDF lets 20 hilltop youth quarantine together against government guidelines

Army sequesters far-right activists at makeshift site in West Bank after they were exposed to virus, trashed bus taking them to isolation hostel

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Hilltop youth quarantining together in a tent provided by the IDF on April 7, 2020. (Courtesy)
Hilltop youth quarantining together in a tent provided by the IDF on April 7, 2020. (Courtesy)

The army on Monday night quarantined a group of 20 far-right activists together in a tent on a deserted West Bank hilltop, in violation of the government’s coronavirus guidelines, which require those who come in contact with confirmed carriers to isolate on their own.

The move came after the extremist youngsters, known as hilltop youth, trashed a bus that was ferrying them to an isolation hostel in the south, police said, confirming a report by the Kan public broadcaster.

The activists were transferred to a makeshift isolation site in Metzoke Dragot, near the Dead Sea.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed to the Times of Israel in a Tuesday statement that it was providing the group with food and lodging, but a spokeswoman added that the tent was a temporary solution.

The group, from the Givat Ronen outpost in the northern West Bank, had initially been taken to a Jerusalem hotel on Monday morning after one of their peers tested positive for COVID-19. In addition to the 20 other inhabitants of the outpost, the teen forced the IDF’s Central Command head Nadav Padan into quarantine.

When the group arrived at the state-run Jerusalem hotel, they were told that each of them would be required to stay in separate rooms like all other guests. When they refused, police decided to bus them to an alternative site in the south.

One of the far-right activists filmed another on the bus saying they had not been told where they were being taken, and were concerned that their destination might be a detention center run by the Shin Bet internal security service.

The hilltop youth subsequently wreaked havoc to the bus, shattering most of the windows. Several of the far-right activists managed to flee, but were apprehended by Border Police.

Police said an investigation would be opened against the teens over the bus vandalism.

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