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Israel Defense Ministry wants to lead charge against coronavirus as cases exceed 1,200

The number of Israelis diagnosed with the coronavirus climbed to 1,238, including 24 people in serious condition, the Health Ministry said Monday.

On Sunday, Israel’s defense establishment asked for the mandate in handling the growing coronavirus crisis. Senior defense officials said that the IDF was “ready and willing to do so immediately,” and that any delay could cost lives.

Under Israeli law, if the government declares a national state of emergency, the Home Front Command is authorized to assume responsibility for crisis management in civilian authorities. The military’s mandate over localities elapses immediately when the state of emergency is lifted.

In recent days, the IDF has stepped up preparations for the possibility that the Defense Ministry might take the lead in the battle against corona, even though the matter is currently designated as the responsibility of the Health Ministry, with the Defense Ministry serving an auxiliary role.

The IDF has been making independent preparations for a scenario in which the Health Ministry can no longer cope with the demands placed upon it, especially if the number of corona patients in Israel continues to rise in the next few days.

As part of its groundwork, the IDF has updated its special protocol for natural disasters and renamed it “Ray of Light.” The directive includes preparations for extreme scenarios in which the IDF would have to take over the handling of the entire civilian economy as well as control the population.

The IDF hopes that the Israel Police will be responsible for enforcing the mandatory lockdown and other instructions to the public, but if the situation continues to worsen, the nation will be divided into sections, each of which will be placed under the command of a division. Individual cities and towns will be assigned to brigades, with battalions responsible for neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, the IDF and the Defense Ministry continue to pursue solutions for current shortages in supplies and manpower.

The Intelligence Directorate’s Special Operations branch, for example, is working on adapting ventilators and manufacturing thousands of protective masks each day. Other teams are working on developing phone applications for the general public. The Defense Ministry is working with Israel’s envoys abroad to locate and procure vital medical equipment.

Header: Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi (right) lead a General Staff meeting at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv | Photo: Ariel Hermoni / Defense Ministry