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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israel arrests 10 as ultra-Orthodox Jews protest lockdown

Violent protests broke out in ultra-Orthodox areas [Twitter]

Date of publication: 25 January, 2021

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Israeli police have arrested 10 people amid violent protests in ultra-Orthodox areas against coronavirus lockdown measures

Ten people were arrested in Israel after clashes between security forces and ultra-Orthodox citizens, police said on Monday, amid disturbances that saw a bus torched in protest against coronavirus restrictions.

The clashes broke out late on Sunday in several ultra-Orthodox districts, including Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv and Mea Shearim in Jerusalem, where residents protested against lockdown measures.

Police said 10 residents of Bnei Brak had been arrested, noting the "disturbances" had "put in peril the lives of emergency services and the public."

Bus driver Ayal Tzipori was injured in the attack and taken to hospital.

"I don't know how I'm still alive," Tzipori told Israel's KAN radio station.

He said around 50 people blocked the road with bins and tyres, then attacked his vehicle, throwing stones and breaking windows.

Read more: Ultra-Orthodox Israeli rabbi says Covid-19 vaccine ‘can turn people gay’

"One of the rioters entered the bus and started kicking and punching me," he said.

Firefighters said they were pelted with stones as they tried put out the bus blaze.

The police said they do their "utmost to find those responsible for criminal acts which have put innocent lives in danger".

By Monday afternoon, calm had returned to Bnei Brak, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.

Yitzhak Yosef, Israel's Sephardic chief rabbi, denounced the violence.

"Those who are responsible for these serious acts in the name of the Torah are committing profanities against the name of God," he said in a video, while also appealing to police to exercise "restraint".

The mayor of Bnei Brak, Meir Rubinstein, said local authorities would cooperate with the police to "put an end" to "incidents of this nature".

Many Israelis accuse ultra-Orthodox Jews, who account for around 12 percent of the country's population, of being disproportionately responsible for the spread of coronavirus.

A week ago, a wedding in Bnei Brak was attended by hundreds of guests, despite a strict lockdown being in force since late December.

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