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Police clash with stone-throwing Haredi protesters in Jerusalem, 5 arrested

Protests come despite lockdown on Jerusalem neighborhoods expiring, easing of coronavirus restrictions on public prayer, ritual baths

Police arrest an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man in the Mea Shearim neighborhood, following a protest against the coronavirus restrictions April 19, 2020. (Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Police arrest an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man in the Mea Shearim neighborhood, following a protest against the coronavirus restrictions April 19, 2020. (Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Police clashed Sunday with stone-throwing ultra-Orthodox men and youths in Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim neighborhood who were protesting against coronavirus restrictions. Five demonstrators were arrested.

Police said “several dozen people” took part, “breaking the peace and throwing stones at police,” adding that police “repelled the demonstrators.”

The protest came despite the government easing some restrictions and just hours before a closure on Jerusalem neighborhoods expired.

In video from the scene, police in riot gear can be seen charging at a group of protesters sitting in a main intersection and blocking the road. They overpowered the protesters and led them away as onlookers screamed at police.

 

It also came several hours after the Justice Ministry opened an internal probe into an incident last week in which a 9-year-old girl was injured by a stun grenade thrown by police officers during clashes in the hardline ultra-Orthodox neighborhood.

The ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department will be “looking into” the incident before deciding on whether to open a full investigation, a spokesperson confirmed to The Times of Israel on Sunday.

Riots erupted Thursday night with protesters hurling objects at police forces as part of a demonstration against the ban on communal prayers and restrictions on use of mikveh ritual baths amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The protests were not coordinated with authorities and did not adhere to Health Ministry guidelines on social distancing, like a 2,000 person protest against government corruption held in Tel Aviv.

Sunday’s protest came even as the strict lockdown of many Jerusalem neighborhoods expired at midnight and were unlikely to be renewed.

A cabinet meeting was set for Monday at 10 a.m. to discuss the issue, but they were not expected to reimpose measures that prevented many Jerusalem residents, mostly in predominantly ultra-Orthodox areas, from leaving “zones” demarcated by the authorities.

And under eased guidelines Jerusalem residents  will now be under the same restrictions as the rest of the country, which keep them within 100 meters of their homes, with exceptions of purchasing food, supplies and going to work.

Outdoor prayers of up to 19 people are also allowed, with two meters between worshipers, wearing masks.

People are also allowed to go 500 meters beyond their own homes or workplaces for prayer. Men were also allowed to attend ritual baths under certain conditions.

During Thursday’s riots some demonstrators hurled rocks, metal rods, eggs and other objects at the cops. Violence also erupted inside one of the local synagogues after police officers entered.

CCTV footage from a nearby street showed cops throwing a stun grenade, which hit a nine-year-old girl who hadn’t been involved in the riot, and exploded next to a stroller with a baby in it.

The girl, Zissel Margaliot, told the Ynet news site that she was injured near her eye and had felt that her head was “on fire.” She said she ran, panicking, looking for people who would help her.

Zissel Margaliot, who was injured by a police stun grenade during a riot in Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim, April 17, 2020 (Screen grab/Ynet)

Margaliot’s parents said they took Zissel to a private medical clinic rather than a hospital, fearing potential infection from coronavirus.

Police said in a statement that 12 people were arrested and that officers “did not notice the presence of the mother and child in the eye of the storm” while dispersing the rioters.

The police commander for northern Jerusalem, Brig. Gen. Ofer Shomer, told the Kan public broadcaster that officers had used “reasonable” force.

 

Three officers were injured during the riots, police said, with one requiring hospital treatment.

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