IDF preparing troops to help police enforce potential lockdown

The Israeli military is preparing to assist the police enforce a full national lockdown if one is declared to combat the coronavirus pandemic, dedicating eight battalions — over 2,000 soldiers — to the cause, with the potential for more.

However, the Israel Defense Forces stresses that no such lockdown has been ordered yet.

IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman says the soldiers will act as an auxiliary force to the Israel Police, who will have the actual legal authority to enforce the lockdown. Zilberman says the IDF troops would not be armed.

Israeli police officers seen in Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim as they close shops and disperse public gatherings on March 24, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israel is currently in a partial lockdown, with most people discouraged from leaving their homes, but police are only enforcing orders against gatherings and shuttering stores where social distancing rules are not kept.

The military says it is also readying to open an internal laboratory to test hundreds of IDF soldiers each day in order to relieve the pressure on civilian laboratories.

This lab, which was converted from an existing DNA testing center used to identify the remains of soldiers, will at first only test soldiers suspected of carrying the virus, and then it will begin checking all soldiers in order to guarantee that units are free of the disease.

Zilberman says that in total 23 servicemembers are currently known to be sick with the disease, not the 25 that the military reported earlier in the day, as one recovered completely and a second was recently released from the IDF.

— Judah Ari Gross

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