Hundreds of police officers have deployed Saturday evening in preparation for the removal of graves at Ashkelon's Barzilai hospital as part of the construction of a new emergency room.
A barbed wire fence was erected around the area for fear that ultra-Orthodox protestors will attempt to raid the site.
The decision to relocate the graves provoked anger among haredi elements that fiercely objected to the move, claiming the tombs belonged to Jewish ancestors.
Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen on Wednesday held a meeting to discuss police deployment ahead of the graves' removal. According to the plan, South District police officers will secure the work carried out by the Antiquities Authority and the construction company in charge of the project.
Haredi man passes by hospital courtyard (Photo: Tzafrir Aviov)
Construction is due to commence only following final approval of the operational plan.Shortly after the plan was announced, ultra-Orthodox website Behadrei Haredim called on the haredi community to organize a protest, while the Atra Kadisha organization, which is leading the struggle against the graves' removal, held a meeting in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood to discuss future actions.
The Barzilai ER construction plans were approved more than a year and a half ago and their implementation only awaits the relocation of the graves.
This was made possible due to the revocation of a former government decision to relocate the emergency room to an alternate location because of the existence of ancient tombs at the site. The procedure would have cost the government an extra NIS 90 million (roughly $24 million).
Ilana Curiel contributed to this report