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Travelers returning from Dubai turn violent at Jerusalem quarantine hotel

In video, one man breaks a partition while another overturns a table; men said incensed when no officials were present to potentially grant exemption from hotel isolation

Home Front Command soldiers and police at the Dan Panorama Hotel, Jerusalem, used as a quarantine facility, on May 10, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Home Front Command soldiers and police at the Dan Panorama Hotel, Jerusalem, used as a quarantine facility, on May 10, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A number of people quarantined at a Jerusalem hotel after returning from abroad turned violent and destroyed property in the early hours of Thursday morning, apparently after there was no official available to exempt them from the requirement to stay in a state-run facility.

The passengers arrived in the middle of the night and were said to be angered by the lack of representatives from the Health Ministry who could consider their requests to be exempted from the requirement to spend their quarantine period in a state-run facility, and instead isolate at home.

According to the Ynet news site, the travelers had been told at the airport that a Health Ministry official would meet them at the Dan Panorama hotel in Jerusalem, but there was nobody there and the men reportedly became angered.

In footage from the scene, one man overturns a table while another breaks the partition set up to protect workers from potential virus transmission.

Police later arrested five people in connection the incident and took them for questioning. The suspects, from northern Israel, were in their 20s and 30s.

According to Hebrew-language media reports, the men had recently returned from Dubai.

An unnamed official from Ben Gurion Airport said that travelers had been told there would be ministry representatives at the airport to deal with the appeals, but the lack of officials was leading to tension.

“They promised everyone there will be [officials]. The government announced that there will be a committee of the Health Ministry at the airport, but there is not. Everyone denies it and drops everything on the Home Front Command. The people did not want to leave the airport, so they start issuing threats,” the official said.

The Health Ministry told the outlet that exemptions at hotels came under the purview of the Home Front Command.

Israelis who had returned from Dubai queue to receive exemptions from hotel quarantine at Ben Gurion Airport, December 28, 2020. (Screen Capture: Channel12)

This was not the first instance of violence at a state-run quarantine hotel — most recently, last month, dozens of people at the Leonardo Hotel in Jerusalem attempted to break out of the facility, clashing at the entrance with security guards, who forced them back inside.

Tens of thousands of Israelis have visited the UAE since the historic normalization agreement with Israel was signed in September.

The UAE was considered a “green zone” after the normalization agreement, allowing for quarantine-free travel between the countries, but that loophole was closed last month amid climbing infection rates in both countries.

All international travelers are now required to quarantine upon return to Israel, with travelers from the United Arab Emirates compelled to stay at a state-run facility unless they receive an exemption.

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