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Police disperse violent protesters in Jerusalem ultra-Orthodox neighborhood

Some unrest was reported Monday night in the cloistered ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim, with several dozen residents holding violent protests against police, and authorities reportedly dispersing the crowds with stun grenades.

Videos published online showed people hooting, whistling and hollering “Nazi” at police patrolling the neighborhood.

The neighborhood is considered one of the largest coronavirus hotspots in the country and has been put under quarantine by police, along with other ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in the capital.

Police forces enforcing coronavirus restrictions and closures in ultra-Orthodox communities have been called “Nazis” on multiple occasions by residents. Though most of the community has respected government-mandated limitations on movement, prayer and gatherings, a vocal minority has flouted the rules.

One video on social media showed police apparently chasing people who had gathered illegally.

Social media reports indicated police had used stun grenades against the protesters. There was no immediate comment from police officials.

Several neighborhoods in the capital with high coronavirus infection rates went into lockdown Sunday afternoon, with around 100 checkpoints set up around the capital. Over 1,000 police officers and soldiers were mobilized to enforce the regulations.

According to Health Ministry data, about 75 percent of the infections in Jerusalem have occurred in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, most of which are now sealed off. There were over 1,800 total cases in the city and at least 21 residents have died of the disease, according to Health Ministry data released Saturday.

On Sunday, the Health Ministry proposed a set of criteria for declaring areas “restricted zones” due to a high number of coronavirus cases there.

These include having a total of more than 50 people in a community with the virus, or “another number that will be determined dynamically in accordance with the development of the morbidity [rate]”; an infection rate per 100,000 people higher than the national average; and a rate of increase in new cases over the last three days that is higher than the national average.

On Sunday morning over 50 pieces of graffiti against Health Minister Yaakov Litzman were found spray-painted in Mea Shearim.

The vandalism saw Litzman called a “murderer” and “Amalek,” the biblical archenemy of the Jewish people, apparently in protest of the new lockdown orders. Municipal officials were sent to clean up the vandalism and police opened an investigation, according to Channel 12 news.

Litzman, the head of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, came under fire earlier this month when he contracted coronavirus after he was accused of flouting his office’s own safety rules. He denies the allegations.

Header: Police patrol in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Mea Shearim on April 12, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Source: TOI