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Police rescue COVID testing staff from dozens of rioters in northern town

Suspects shoot fireworks at building in Taibe as medical staff hides inside until law enforcement arrives to scatter protesters upset that site closed for the day

Health care workers take test samples of Israelis in a drive-through complex in Modiin, on September 10 2021 (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
Health care workers take test samples of Israelis in a drive-through complex in Modiin, on September 10 2021 (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Police were called to the northern town of Taibe on Monday night where dozens of residents were rioting at a COVID-19 testing center after it closed for the day.

Roughly 50 people participated in the riot, with several suspects shooting off fireworks in the direction of the testing site, where medical staffers were forced to barricade inside as they waited for the police to arrive.

As the confrontation intensified, Taibe’s Mayor Shuaa Masarwa Mansour arrived at the scene and tried, unsuccessfully, to convince the protesters to go home.

The officers managed to scatter the rioters shortly upon their arrival, and no medical professionals were injured in the incident.

Arab Israeli lawmakers and municipal leaders have long lamented the discrepancy in the number of testing sites and coronavirus-related resources in their towns compared to Jewish locales.

Miri Sinai, director of testing for the Target-Medcare firm, told Channel 12 that her staff has seen recurring cases of violence at testing sites across the country in recent weeks.

This indeed wasn’t the first incident in which staff at a COVID-19 testing site was targeted. On the eve of Rosh Hashanah last week, a family attacked one of the examiners at a site in Rishon Lezion, who required medical treatment for facial injuries. Police were dispatched to the scene and shut down the location for the rest of the day. In another incident in Jerusalem, a driver sped through a checkpoint at the entrance of the testing site and threatened staffers after discovering upon arrival that the location was closed for the day.

“We call on law enforcement and local authorities to act immediately and protect medical staff,” Sinai said in a statement.

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