Yafo Arabs Riot As Police Enforce Quarantine Rules

Police officers stand guard during clashes with residents in Yafo, following the arrest of a resident who violated his home quarantine, Wednesday. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Bnei Brak is not the only city in Israel that is under a “soft closure” to ensure that residents observe quarantine rules. Police and IDF forces were deploying Thursday morning in several other areas, including South Tel Aviv and Yafo. Police are set to set up roadblocks at the entrances and exits to these areas, and will send those attempting to cross home, unless they have a good reason for trying to leave.

While the media has reported widely on violations of quarantine in chareidi communities, there has been little reporting about violations in other areas – and the reaction when police try to enforce quarantines. That issue came to a head Wednesday, when Arab residents of Yafo rioted when police tried to fine individuals for violating quarantine.

Police battled rioters for long hours Wednesday through the late hours of the night, as they attempted to restore order in Yafo’s Ajami neighborhood and on Yefet Street, one of the city’s main arteries. Residents said that the riot began when police attempted to enter the house of an individual who was supposed to remain under quarantine, but was seen outside several times. Rioters threw rocks and eggs at police, and burned tires, setting them afire in large garbage bins and creating thick, acrid smoke that could be seen throughout much of the city. Police used anti-riot measures to quell the mob, arresting four individuals who had incited the crowd.

Residents blamed police for the rioting. Amir Badran, a Yafo resident and member of the Tel Aviv City Council, told Maariv that “there is a lot of anger in Yafo right now, which has mounted after recent incidents of violence by police. The city is going through a difficult time and it doesn’t take much to set off people. Even if there was a minor infraction there is no reason for police to act violently.” Police said in response that it was their duty to enforce quarantine laws for the sake of the health of the public.

South Tel Aviv is another area police have begun taking an increased interest in, after widely distributed images on social media showed that African residents of the area were completely ignoring social distancing and quarantine rules. Images showed police writing summonses to Israelis who refused to get off the street, while ignoring dozens of Africans who were congregating in groups on park benches and outside stores. The images showed police ignoring questions by Israelis on why they were getting summonses, but not the Africans. Residents told Yediot Acharonot that they were “very concerned and frightened” that many of the Africans in the neighborhood had come down with the disease and were spreading it.

Speaking Wednesday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that police “will increase the limitations on movement wherever needed, not just in Tel Aviv, but other areas, like South Tel Aviv. Israelis know what I am talking about,” he added.

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