טיסת חילוץ יוצאת מנתב"ג לניו יורק
Israelis returning from New York via a rescue flight
Photo: Eyal Shapiro
Travelers waiting in line at Ben Gurion Airport

Israel to further tighten border control in bid to leave virus variants out

Measure put in place as alternative to isolation hotels until electronic substitute is found despite thousands of Israelis still being stranded abroad; arrivals describe 'degrading' behavior by police

Itay Blumenthal |
Published: 02.22.21, 18:42
Starting next week, the number of daily arrivals in Israel will be reduced to just 200 — excluding certain humanitarian cases — as the government scrambled on Monday to find an alternative to state-run isolation hotels in a bid to prevent the entry of new coronavirus variants into the country via Ben Gurion Airport.
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  • The decision followed a request by Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee to present an alternative to the current bill which expires Tuesday at midnight.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    המונים ממתינים בצפיפות בתורים בנתב"ג
    המונים ממתינים בצפיפות בתורים בנתב"ג
    Travelers waiting in line at Ben Gurion Airport
    (Photo: Yoav Limor)
    While the committee agreed to extend the bill by further 24 hours, committee chairman, MK Yaakov Asher (United Torah Judaism), said that "police can enforce home isolation much more effectively. We must find a way to enforce it with the consent of the people, perhaps through cellular tracking.”
    The Transportation Ministry stated that this precaution will stay in place “until a technological solution is found and/or isolation in hotels is reinstated to ensure the arrivals will self-isolate as required.
    The ministry also called on Israelis who intend on leaving the country in the coming days to reconsider the necessity of their trip.
    There are currently tens of thousands of Israelis stranded abroad as all commercial flights to and from the country have been grounded and boarding a special rescue flight requires a permit from an exceptions committee which is inundated daily by thousands of applications.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    טיסת חילוץ יוצאת מנתב"ג לניו יורק
    טיסת חילוץ יוצאת מנתב"ג לניו יורק
    Israelis returning from New York via a rescue flight
    (Photo: Eyal Shapiro)
    Dozens of travelers who managed to return to Israel on Sunday said they found themselves forced by police into isolation in hotels.
    According to Aliza, one of the passengers at the scene, one traveler claimed he had been vaccinated against COVID-19 during his time in the U.S. and asked to present documents that could exempt him from isolating himself in a hotel. Police officers refused to review his documents and dragged him by force outside the airport complex.
    “It’s infuriating there is no one to talk to," Aliza said, who was also forced into a quarantine hotel. “The cops could have been polite and explain to him that there was no other option, but the first thing they did was silence him and drag him out by force.”
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    נוסעים שנחתו אחר הצהריים בנתב"ג מדובאי מסרבים להתפנות למלוניות בידוד
    נוסעים שנחתו אחר הצהריים בנתב"ג מדובאי מסרבים להתפנות למלוניות בידוד
    Police officer meet travelers arriving at Ben Gurion Airport
    Another passenger described seeing policemen "roaring at people, including women and little girls."
    "There was a woman who was crying on the phone and instead of showing a sliver of compassion — the policeman yelled at her and threatening to drag her by force,” he said.
    A police statement said in response that officers acted in accordance with government regulations.
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