Top generals quarantined after coming into contact with coronavirus carriers

Top generals quarantined after coming into contact with coronavirus carriers

Heads of IDF Central Command, Southern Command forced to self-isolates, along with several other senior officers and troops

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Home Front Command chief Maj. Gen. Tamir Yadai in 2018 (YouTube screenshot)
Home Front Command chief Maj. Gen. Tamir Yadai in 2018 (YouTube screenshot)

The head of the IDF Southern Command, incoming head of the Central Command, three brigadier generals, and a number of other senior officers and troops from the military and Shin Bet security service were put into quarantine on Wednesday after coming into contact with coronavirus carriers, officials said.

On Wednesday morning, the Israel Defense Forces said incoming Central Command chief Maj. Gen. Tamir Yadai would enter self-isolation — for a second time — after being in contact with a carrier of the COVID-19 disease during an event earlier this month.

In addition to Yadai, who is due to take over for outgoing Central Command chief Maj. Gen. Nadav Padan in the coming weeks, Brig. Gen. David Zini, the head of the Central Command’s 340th Reserve Division, was placed in quarantine, along with “commanders of regular and reservist brigades in the division and other officers and soldiers” who came into contact with the infected career soldier, the military said.

Later in the day, the IDF said the head of the Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi, would also be entering quarantine, along with Brig. Gen. Eliezer Toledano of the Gaza Division and Brig. Gen. Gur Schreibman of the 80th Division, after attending a meeting with the infected Shin Bet officer last week.

Head of the IDF Southern Command Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi oversees an operation to assassinate Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata on November 12, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

“The major general and division commanders will be in quarantine and will continue to maintain their normal schedules, as much as possible,” the military said.

“The commanders feel good, with no symptoms, and will be tested soon,” the IDF says.

Several members of the security service are also entering quarantine “in accordance with Health Ministry directives,” a Shin Bet spokesperson said.

The Israel Defense Forces said Yadai would quarantine inside his home, though he too would “attempt to maintain his regular schedule, as much as possible.” In the past, top officers who were forced to self-isolate generally did so from their offices in order to be better able to continue their work during this period.

Then-Col. David Zini speaks during a ceremony marking the creation of the new Commando Brigade in Ein Harod on December 27, 2015. (Yahav Trudler/Israel Defense Forces)

The event in which Yadai and the other Central Command officers were potentially exposed to the virus was a send-off for Zini who was due to leave his position. It took place in the headquarters of the Central Command on June 10, meaning Yadai and the other officers and soldiers would likely need to remain in quarantine until June 24.

Zini was meant to take over as the head of the IDF’s Ground Forces Training Center — often known by its Hebrew acronym Mali and by the name of the base Tzeelim — with a ceremony on Wednesday, but this was postponed due to the quarantines.

As of Tuesday, 25 IDF officers, soldiers and employees were sick with the coronavirus. In addition, 1,832 service members were in quarantine, the military said.

In total in Israel, the number of active cases was nearing 4,000 on Wednesday morning, with 299 fresh cases since the previous day — the highest figure since April 22 — after having dipped below 2,000 earlier this month. The renewed outbreak came after it had appeared to fade, with the country starting to reopen most parts of its economy.

The Health Ministry said 37 people were in serious condition, including 27 on ventilators. Another 40 were in moderate condition, and the rest were displaying mild or no symptoms. A separate tally from the Prime Minister’s Office put the number of those on ventilators at 29.

One person died overnight, bringing the death toll to 303, according to the ministry’s website. No details were immediately published on the identity of the new fatality.

The Health Ministry said almost 15,000 COVID-19 tests had been conducted over the previous 24 hours.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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