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President Herzog condemns hospital violence as incidents rack up

Head of security at Rambam Medical Center says riot police were called in to prevent a crowd of 100 people from bursting in, raising the number of similar incidents to 3 this week

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

President Isaac Herzog visits the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, on November 17, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog visits the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, on November 17, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)

President Isaac Herzog expressed horror on Wednesday morning at recent outbreaks of violence at hospitals across Israel, after multiple such incidents occurred just this week.

“I am following with great concern the rise in violence across the country,” said Herzog during a tour of the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya. “The incidents we have seen in the past few days at the Soroka Medical Center and Meir Medical Center are shocking and severe.”

Herzog said he understands that such incidents are widespread across hospitals in all parts of the country.

“It is unacceptable that Israeli citizens do not feel safe in the place that should be the safest for them,” said Herzog. “How can it be that the place we go to receive life-saving care becomes a life-threatening place?”

Violent incidents have been reported in at least three hospitals in Israel this week, with warring clans and angry family members gathering outside medical centers and police being called in to assist.

The Rambam Medical Center in Haifa said it had to forcibly remove dozens of people who gathered on Monday outside the facility after a victim of violence was brought there for treatment. According to hospital officials, the Yasam riot police unit was called to the scene to prevent the crowd from entering the hospital.

“War has broken out here,” Benny Keller, the head of Rambam’s security, told the Kan public broadcaster on Wednesday. “Two or three times a week, the hospital turns into a battlefield between warring clans.”

Damaged windows are seen at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, on November 15, 2021. (Flash90)

Keller said that on Monday, the Yasam unit was needed in order “to prevent 100 people breaking into the emergency room,” and ultimately just 10 family members were allowed entry.

The incident is the third this week at hospitals across Israel. On Sunday evening, four people were hurt and 19 were arrested in a massive brawl outside the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba that included gunfire.

Two of the injured men — who were stabbed — were being treated at the hospital with mild injuries. The pair are from the nearby Bedouin city of Rahat, according to police. Another two were being treated for mild blunt trauma injuries, the hospital said.

And on Tuesday, an angry crowd gathered outside the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba after two shooting victims were brought there for treatment. The two men, one of whom was declared dead, were shot outside a funeral at a cemetery in Jaljulia, in what is believed to be a mob hit gone wrong.

A brawl outside Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, on November 14, 2021. (Screenshot/Twitter)

Fighting broke out at the medical center when family members of one of the victims attempted to break through a gate at the facility, Channel 12 news reported. Dozens of people clashed with the hospital’s security team, until police reinforcements arrived on the scene and restored order, the report said.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett claimed Monday that the phenomenon of violent crime in the Arab sector is finally being dealt with after it had been previously ignored.

“Crime in the Arab community, especially… quantities of illegal weapons that are enough for a small army — the arsenal that has accumulated and expanded over many years, needs to be emptied,” Bennett said. “We are making a critical effort throughout the country against weapons and munitions,” the premier added.

Beersheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovich said a serious intervention is needed.

“There is civilian terrorism taking over the country. Someone needs to come and talk to the Israeli public,” said Danilovich at a press conference. “I expected the prime minister and public security minister [Omer Barlev] to be [in Beersheba] this morning, because a very serious incident occurred yesterday — a loss of control on the part of the State of Israel.

“The Israeli government needs to wake up because the public is losing confidence,” he added.

Emanuel Fabian and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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