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IDF scaling back its role in coronavirus effort as outbreaks come under control

With the coronavirus crisis appearing to be calming after its first wave, the Israel Defense Forces is planning to scale back its participation in the national fight against the pandemic, the army’s spokesperson said Thursday.

This was due in part to a decreased need for the military’s assistance, as major outbreaks in the city of Bnei Brak and ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Jerusalem were brought under greater control, as well as the result of the IDF learning how to operate more efficiently, lowering the need for manpower.

Though the IDF Home Front Command planned to continue distributing food and other assistance in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, the combat troops who had been taking part in the effort are being released back to their normal training schedule, IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman told reporters.

The number of soldiers assisting police to enforce the national lockdown has also been halved, from some 1,400 soldiers to 700, he said.

In the coming weeks, the IDF also planned to begin releasing the roughly 2,000 reservists who had been brought into the Home Front Command during the crisis, beginning with a 10 to 20 percent cut next week, followed by a more gradual reduction thereafter, according to Zilberman.

He reiterated that the military anticipated the coronavirus would remain a challenge for many months to come and has three teams dedicated to finding ways for dealing with it in the long term. All three teams report to IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, who was tasked with leading the IDF’s coronavirus efforts.

One team, under Home Front Command chief Maj. Gen. Tamir Yadai, was looking into ways for his unit to continue supporting local governments hit by the coronavirus in order to take some of the pressure off the national government, Zilberman said.

The second team is led jointly by the head of the IDF Operations Directorate, Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, and the head of the IDF Logistics Directorate, Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Turgeman. It is focused on the military’s internal efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus and continue operating at its full capacity.

The third group, led by the head of the IDF Planning Directorate, Maj. Gen. Amir Abulafiya, will consider how to take some of the military’s current coronavirus initiatives, which were created on a temporary basis or have taken on outsized importance, and turn them into permanent, sustainable features.

As examples, Zilberman offered an information center set up by the IDF, which will need permanent staffing going into the future, and a Home Front Command unit that liaises with the country’s local governments. That program is normally run by reservists, but it has become an invaluable lifeline under the coronavirus pandemic and therefore requires full-time commanders, he said.

Source: Judah Ari Gross – TOI