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Roadblocks, patrols and crime response teams: Israeli Police prepare for full lockdown

Interim Israel Police commissioner Motti Cohen on Sunday approved plans for a potential full national lockdown if the coronavirus crisis continues to deteriorate.

The plans include reinforced police and IDF presence, with security forces spread out across the country to patrol, enforce the closure, and limit movement, police said in a statement.

Police would block major roads in accordance with government decisions and set up roadblocks in the entrances and exits of towns and cities. It would also break down cities into smaller, more manageable zones.

Areas of public gathering would be closed off. Special response teams would be on hand to treat extraordinary events including potential vandalism, violence and other crimes.

“The police is ready for any task it is given… as part of its responsibility for public safety,” Cohen said. “I expect the public to continue to show discipline, personal responsibility and mutual care.”

Israel has taken far-reaching measures to contain the pandemic, including sealing its borders to non-citizens and non-residents, calling off schools, banning gatherings of over 10 people, telling people not to leave home unless necessary and to keep a two-meter (6.5-foot) distance from others, and shutting down all leisure venues.

New directives went into effect Sunday morning, vesting police with power to enforce orders. The rules, which allow “essential” services to remain open, have sown confusion among business owners and individuals regarding what is permitted.

The guidelines indicate that police will not take action against individual rule-breakers who leave their homes, but rather those who congregate in groups.

Police swept Sunday through Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market and Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda Market, ordering food and produce stands to close, in accordance with the new emergency regulations.

Three people were arrested and fined during violent clashes with police in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood on Sunday, as officers worked to ensure compliance with the government-ordered partial lockdown.

As of Sunday evening, 1,071 people have been diagnosed with the virus in Israel, and one person has died. At least 37 have recovered.

Header: Police seen in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Mea Shearim, as they disperse public gatherings, following the government decisions, in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus. March 22, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)