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Haredi protesters in Jerusalem scrap with cops over mask enforcement

Scuffles broke out between protesters and police attempting to enforce mask-wearing in Jerusalem late Saturday.

Two people were arrested during the melee in the capital’s ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood, police said.

According to police, the fighting broke out when officers attempted to write a ticket for a woman refusing to put a mask on her face in line with government rules to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The woman refused to identify herself and dozens of others showed up and began fighting with police, including throwing stones at them, according to reports.

In a statement, the police said the protesters “obstructed the work [of the police], disturbed the peace and threw bottles and other things at officers.”

In video of the incident posted online by the Kikar Hashabbat news site, children can be heard calling the police Nazis.

No injuries were reported, and police said the woman was eventually served a citation.

Wearing a mask in public in Israel is mandatory, and police have stepped up enforcement efforts, including giving out fines of NIS 200 ($58). Lawmakers are seeking to up the fine to NIS 500 ($145).

On Saturday, Public Security Minister Amir Ohana said police would step up enforcement efforts, including assigning thousands of officers to only dealing with coronavirus-related matters.

Police on Friday said they had given out 823 citations for virus-related matters, most of them to people not wearing masks.

The insular Mea Shearim neighborhood is home to several extremist ultra-Orthodox sects, many of whom are distrustful of Israeli authorities, and clashes with police there are not uncommon.

The neighborhood was one of the nation’s largest infection hotspots during the initial wave of the virus, as much of the ultra-Orthodox community initially balked at following social-distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders.

Jerusalem has remained the nationwide-leader in infections, with over 5,000 since the start of the pandemic, though it has been responsible for a smaller share of new virus cases as the pandemic has reached new heights in recent days.

Over 150 new cases were confirmed in Jerusalem between Friday evening and Saturday evening, out of 977 nationwide, according to Health Ministry data.

Source: TOI