Police raid Bnei Brak following attack on officers enforcing lockdown

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Dozens of ultra-Orthodox (haredim) extremists belonging to the Vizhnitz Hasidic dynasty on Thursday night surrounded and assaulted a vehicle driven by police officers who were enforcing the coronavirus lockdown on King Solomon Street in Bnei Brak, police reported.

As the crowd surrounded the vehicle, rioters were heard shouting “Nazis” and “damned,” while bashing and eventually smashing the police vehicle’s windows using stones.

“The group even tried to open the vehicle’s doors, as the police officers inside were forced to call for rescue!,” the police statement read.

One police officer was lightly injured as a result.

The incident was condemned by many politicians, including by ultra-Orthodox MKs who called on extremist factions in the ultra-Orthodox community to stop the violence and cooperate with the police efforts in enforcing lockdown restrictions.

Leader of the Shas party and Interior Minister Arye Deri called the incident “serious and outrageous,” adding that “the rioters must be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We must keep the guidelines and save lives.”

Member of the coronavirus cabinet and Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevich also condemned the attack, noting that “these police officers are doing God’s work in enforcing life-saving guidelines,” adding that “they deserve appreciation for their work.”

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The city of Bnei Brak released a statement denouncing the incident, noting that “these kinds of actions are not our way, they do not reflect the spirit of the city’s rabbis and its hundreds of thousands of residents. This is a serious case of a group of teenagers who must be punished.”

Opposition leader Yair Lapid went as far as calling the rioters “a group of anarchists who need to end the night in jail and be prosecuted as soon as possible.” Lapid blamed Netanyahu’s government for creating the conditions that allowed the attack to happen, adding that “a sane country cannot let these things happen. This is the price that we pay for this government’s political weakness. We will change that,” he concluded.

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not immediately comment on the serious incident, he later promised to “act severely against any violators of the law, and especially against those who raise their hands against our police officers.”

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The incident was met by a harsh response by the police as well, as additional forces, including a police helicopter, were dispatched to the area and to the yeshiva associated with the suspects involved in the attack.

Stun grenades were reportedly used by the armed police forces as they entered the compound of the Vizhnitz Hasidic yeshiva in Bnei Brak in an attempt to arrest suspects who were involved in the attack.

Reinforced police forces were also dispatched to various locations of the city in an attempt to disperse illegal gatherings, the police reported, noting that six suspects were arrested.

Incidents of police personnel being attacked by ultra-Orthodox extremists have become more frequent in recent months, especially during the ongoing efforts to enforce coronavirus restrictions. And while Thursday’s incident stands in its severity, it is but the latest of many examples for the growing tension between the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel and law enforcement attempting to enforce lockdown restrictions. Accordingly, It also reflects a growing tension between Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community and the country’s secular population, many of whom blame the ultra-Orthodox community for not cooperating with the nationwide efforts to combat and limit the spread of the coronavirus.

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