Israel Police Begin Setting Up Roadblocks to Enforce Coronavirus Closure Over Passover

‘The explaining is over’ and police are using soldiers as reinforcements: ‘The goal is for the roads to be completely empty’ and people will not only be fined, they will be sent home

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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A boy wears a clown mask next to Israeli police as they patrol the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem April 6, 2020.
A boy wears a clown mask next to Israeli police as they patrol the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem April 6, 2020. Credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

Israel Police began placing roadblocks at the entrances to Jerusalem on Sunday, in an operation that will continue through the Passover seder on Wednesday night, in an attempt to prevent people from leaving their homes due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Jerusalem District Police deployed a number of roadblocks at the entrances to the city, at the Hemed interchange on Route 1 between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and at the entrance to Beit Shemesh – causing heavy traffic jams.

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The police are also expected to place similar roadblocks at the entrances to other cities around Israel on Monday.

The operation will reach its peak on Tuesday and continue through the start of the Passover holiday on Wednesday evening, with the police planning to add large numbers of reinforcements to the units already deployed.

“We are already past the explanation stage, there will not be any compromises,” said the head of the operations branch in the Traffic Police, Chief Superintendent Shelly Shaul. “The goal is for the roads to be completely empty. Anyone who thinks they can evade them, should know that at a certain stage they will run into the police and not only will they receive a fine but they will also be sent back home.”

A police roadblock in Jerusalem, last weekend.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

On Tuesday, the police plan to deploy in three circles: At the exits from neighborhoods, exits from the cities, entrances to the cities and on intercity roads. Police officers from local police stations and district units will be placed in the first circle: the entrances and exits from neighborhoods and cities. Traffic police will be placed at the borders between cities and will patrol the inter city highways. Soldiers from the Military Police are scheduled to accompany traffic police officers starting Tuesday, which will double the number of police deployed on the roads.

The police will also be using drones and security cameras to enforce the ban on leaving homes. “We don’t want the seder night to be the time of another outbreak of the disease as were the Purim celebrations,” said a senior law enforcement official.

“These are critical days for us and we want to create a situation without any movement between cities and communities,” said Shaul. “We will check and question, and we expect for the public to follow the [emergency] orders and not leave their homes.”

“The number of patrol cars on the roads will be enormous. It is clear to us that there will always be those who will try to evade the orders and there will be excuses such as ‘I only wanted to go visit my mother.’ We know this from our day-to-day [operations], but in the next few days people will receive fines,” he added.

“The stage of explanations ended a long time ago. A person who gets in their car now knows very well that this is forbidden and they are violating the orders, there is no reason to explain it to them. People need to understand that by the very fact of leaving the house they are endangering the police officers and their families,” said Shaul.

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