IDF to let troops take off in first step toward return to normal

The Israel Defense Forces says it will begin releasing combat troops and other soldiers for leave next week, after keeping them on base for roughly a month, in an apparent sign of a slight return to normal amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On March 15, the military told troops serving on so-called “closed bases,” mostly combat units and those undergoing training courses, that they should prepare to remain on base for at least a month in an effort to prevent them from contracting the virus and infecting their fellow soldiers.

Earlier today, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi accepted the proposal of his deputy, Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, who has been tasked with leading the military’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, to allow troops to begin to go home for short furloughs “in a gradual and monitored way,” the military says.

The IDF says this will begin on Sunday, starting with combat troops who were on operational deployment, followed by units performing exercises and finally those in training courses.

“The soldiers will be briefed on strictly maintaining IDF and Health Ministry medical orders. When they return, the troops will be questioned and tested [for the virus],” the military says.

The IDF says soldiers will continue to operate in distinct “capsules,” or shifts, in order to ensure that if troops in one shift become infected with the disease, the others will not and the IDF will be able to continue to operate fully.

— Judah Ari Gross

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