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Bnei Brak mayor: “Nobody will be removed from city by force”

Bnei Brak Mayor Avraham Rubinstein assures residents in a statement that “no one will be removed by force.”

Yesterday, the government announced that it had approved a plan to remove 4,500 Bnei Brak residents above the age of 80 from the virus-plagued city in order to ensure their health.

However, the announcement did not specify that only those who requested to be removed would be extracted.

Thus far, police have only removed a handful of elderly locals.

Today, the son of the senior rabbi who heads Health Minister Yaakov Litzman’s Gur Hasidic sect was smuggled into the locked-down city of Bnei Brak in an ambulance along with his wife this morning to participate in a circumcision ceremony, Channel 13 reports.

The son of the Admor of Gur Yaakov Aryeh Alter violated the “restricted zone” imposed by the government which limits Bnei Brak entrances to residents, police, rescue services, those bringing essential supplies and journalists.

It is not immediately clear to whom the ambulance belongs, but the Magen David Adom emergency service says it is not theirs.

The deputy mayor of Bnei Brak on Friday called the decision to close off his city “a death trap for the city’s elderly” and urged the governments to consider other ways to stop the spread of coronavirus.

His call came as the government tasked the Israel Defense Forces with formally providing “civil assistance” to residents of Bnei Brak, a major hotspot of the virus, as police established checkpoints at the entrances and exits of the ultra-Orthodox city on the outskirts of Tel Aviv.

Gedalyahu Ben Shimon said the lockdown has caused uncertainty, leading “many city residents to flood a limited number of supermarkets, thus increasing the danger of infection.”

“As opposed to a curfew, where the army takes full responsibility for the hundreds of thousands of residents and provides them with food and medicine, here they’ve taken a half-measure that raises the odds of contagion and could cost human lives. A course correction is required,” he said.

The head of the IDF Home Front Command, Maj. Gen. Tamir Yadai confirmed that the army would only be supplying necessities to the most at-risk people.

Yadai stressed that while the city is effectively cut off, life within Bnei Brak is allowed to continue under the same restrictions as exist in the rest of the country, so people are still allowed to shop for food and other necessities. This means that while soldiers are delivering food and medicine to at-risk residents, they do not need to supply food to the entire population of roughly 200,000 people.

Most of the army effort would focus on helping evacuate the sick and elderly from the city, he said, adding, “No one will be evacuated by force, only voluntarily.”

The effort was being coordinated with the Bnei Brak municipality — specifically the head of the city’s coronavirus task force, Maj. Gen. (res.) Roni Numa — with the Magen David Adom ambulance service, Health Ministry, Israel Police and other government offices, he said.

Header: Israeli Police set up temporary checkpoints at the entrance to the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish city of Bnei Brak as part of an effort to enforce lockdown in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, April 3, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)