Hundreds of Hasidic Jews held up at Ukraine border over coronavirus

Hundreds of Hasidic Jews held up at Ukraine border over coronavirus
Jewish pilgrims, attempting to enter Ukraine from Belarus, gather in front of Ukrainian service members near Novi Yarylovychi crossing point, Chernihiv Region, Ukraine, Sept. 15, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 15 September 2020

Hundreds of Hasidic Jews held up at Ukraine border over coronavirus

Hundreds of Hasidic Jews held up at Ukraine border over coronavirus
  • Tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews travel every Jewish New Year to the town of Uman in central Ukraine to visit the tomb of Rabbi Nahman
  • The pilgrims set off even though last month the Ukrainian and Israeli governments called on Hasidic Jews not to travel to Uman this year

KIEV: Hundreds of Hasidic Jews including children, who have sought to travel to a pilgrimage site in Ukraine, are being held up at the country’s border with Belarus due to coronavirus restrictions.
Tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews travel every Jewish New Year to the town of Uman in central Ukraine to visit the tomb of Rabbi Nahman, the founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement.
This year the Jewish New Year is celebrated September 18-20.
The pilgrims set off even though last month the Ukrainian and Israeli governments called on Hasidic Jews not to travel to Uman, a town of 80,000 people, this year, fearing a spike in coronavirus infections.
Kiev has banned foreigners from entering the country until late September.
On Tuesday, President Volodymyr Zelensky discussed the situation at the border with the head of the state border guard service, Sergiy Deyneko, his office said. Ukraine had full control of the situation, it added.
In Belarus, strongman Alexander Lukashenko’s office said he had told officials to provide assistance to the pilgrims, accusing Ukraine of “shutting its borders” and leaving hundreds of people in neutral territory.
The Belarus Red Cross Society said the pilgrims did not have “enough resources to ensure their basic needs” and assistance was being provided, particularly to parents with children, the elderly and people with disabilities.
As of Tuesday morning, 690 pilgrims were at the Ukrainian-Belarusian border and hundreds more were expected to arrive, Kiev said.
“We expect that three charter planes — some 600 foreigners — will arrive in Minsk,” Deyneko said, referring to the capital of Belarus.
He said up to 1,000 people were expected to arrive at the border near Ukraine’s northern Chernigiv region, while in the northwest up to 700 were expected near Zhytomyr region and up to 1,500 people near Volyn region.
Officials have put up a roadblock 700 meters from a checkpoint in the Chernigiv region and deployed aircraft and drones to monitor the border, Zelensky’s office said in a statement.
The Ukrainian authorities have been in touch with the Israeli embassy in Kiev and the pilgrims are receiving water and kosher food from local Jewish organizations.
Separately, the border guard service said people waiting at the border were still trying to enter Ukraine “even after having received explanations and were fully aware of the entry restrictions for foreigners.”
Rabbi Nahman is one of the main figures of Hasidism, a mystical branch of Judaism that appeared in the 18th century and which developed in particular in Poland and Ukraine.
Ukraine has reported more than 159,000 cases of coronavirus and over 3,200 fatalities.
Israel is set to impose a three-week lockdown there from Friday, to try to counter a surge in coronavirus infections.


Militants open fire and burn police car in Philippine town

Updated 28 min 9 sec ago

Militants open fire and burn police car in Philippine town

Militants open fire and burn police car in Philippine town

COTABATO, Philippines: Dozens of militants aligned with the Daesh group opened fire on a Philippine army detachment and burned a police patrol car in a southern town but withdrew after troops returned fire, officials said Friday.
There were no immediate reports of injuries in Thursday night’s brief attack by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Datu Piang town. Nevertheless it sparked panic among residents and rekindled fears of a repeat of a 2017 militant siege of southern Marawi city that lasted for five months before being quelled by government forces.
“We are on top of the situation. This is just an isolated case,” regional military commander Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr. said in a statement.
Security officials gave differing statements on the motive of the 30 to 50 gunmen. Some said the militants targeted Datu Piang’s police chief over a feud but others speculated that the militants wanted to project that they are still a force to reckon with by attacking the army detachment in the center of the predominantly Muslim town.
Officials denied earlier reports that the militants managed to seize a police station and burn a Roman Catholic church.
When reinforcement troops in armored carriers arrived and opened fire, the militants fled toward a marshland, military officials said.
The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters is one of a few small armed groups waging a separatist rural insurrection in the south of the largely Roman Catholic nation. The groups opposed a 2014 autonomy deal forged by the largest Muslim rebel group in the south with the Philippine government and have continued on and off attacks despite being weakened by battle setbacks, surrenders and factionalism.
The armed groups include the Abu Sayyaf, which has been blacklisted by the United States and the Philippines as a terrorist organization for kidnappings for ransom, beheadings and bombings.