Jewish pilgrims quit Ukraine border campout over virus entry ban

Jewish pilgrims quit Ukraine border campout over virus entry ban
Hasidic Jewish pilgrims dance as they gather in front of Ukrainian border guards at a checkpoint near Novaya Guta, Belarus, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. (AP Photo)
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Updated 18 September 2020

Jewish pilgrims quit Ukraine border campout over virus entry ban

Jewish pilgrims quit Ukraine border campout over virus entry ban
  • The standoff between pilgrims and armed Ukrainian security services sparked tensions at the Novi Yarylovychi border crossing and inflamed a diplomatic row between Minsk and Kiev
  • Ukrainian border guard spokesman Andriy Demchenko said that most pilgrims had returned to Belarus and only “a few pilgrims” hoping to enter Ukraine remained at the crossing point

KIEV: More than 1,000 Jewish pilgrims who massed for several days along Ukraine’s border gave up hope of entering the country on Friday after being turned back due to coronavirus restrictions.
The Orthodox-Jewish believers including hundreds of children camped out this week in no-man’s land between the Ukrainian and Belarusian border crossings ahead of Jewish New Year celebrations this weekend.
Tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews travel to the central Ukrainian city of Uman every Jewish New Year to visit the tomb of Rabbi Nahman, the founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement.
The standoff between pilgrims and armed Ukrainian security services sparked tensions at the Novi Yarylovychi border crossing and inflamed a diplomatic row between Minsk and Kiev.
Ukrainian border guard spokesman Andriy Demchenko told AFP Friday that most pilgrims had returned to Belarus and only “a few pilgrims” hoping to enter Ukraine remained at the crossing point.
Belarus, which earlier said the pilgrims should be allowed to visit holy sites in Ukraine, confirmed that fewer than a dozen people were attempting to cross.
Belarus’s Border Committee representative Anton Bychkovskiy said pilgrims were “leaving the border en masse” and traveling onwards to nearby cities by bus and taxi.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday wished Jews a happy New Year and acknowledged the country had been “forced to limit mass events” over safety concerns.
The believers — mainly Israeli, but also American and French — departed for Uman this year even though both the Ukrainian and Israeli governments last month urged them not to travel because of the pandemic.
An Israeli minister on Thursday called on those camping out on the border to return home and uphold quarantine rules on arrival in Israel.
Kiev closed its borders for most of the month of September citing a growing number of coronavirus infections, but the pilgrims attempted to bypass the restrictions by traveling through Belarus.
Ukrainian border guards announced Friday they had arrested several pilgrims, including Israeli and US citizens, trying to enter the country illegally from Hungary, Poland and Romania.
Kiev has reported more than 169,000 cases of coronavirus and 3,468 fatalities. On Thursday, officials registered a record one-day increase in infections.
The standoff on the border aggravated strained ties between Kiev and Minsk, which have traded barbs over disputed presidential elections in Belarus last month.
Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko earlier instructed officials to negotiate a travel corridor with Ukraine and offered to provide buses to transport religious believers to holy sites in Ukraine.
Kiev in turn accused Belarusian authorities of giving false hope to the Hasidic pilgrims that they would be allowed to travel to Uman.
Both Ukraine and Israel are keen to avoid a spike in coronavirus infections.
Israel imposed a second nationwide lockdown on Friday to tackle one of the world’s highest coronavirus infection rates, despite public protests over the new blow to the economy.
The three-week shutdown starts just hours before Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.
Meanwhile, up to 3,000 Hasidic Jews have arrived in Uman for the celebrations entering Ukraine before the ban, police said.
Law enforcement has tightened security near Rabbi Nahman’s tomb where pilgrims have congregated.


150 migrants storm border with Spain’s Melilla enclave

150 migrants storm border with Spain’s Melilla enclave
Updated 19 January 2021

150 migrants storm border with Spain’s Melilla enclave

150 migrants storm border with Spain’s Melilla enclave
  • 90 migrants managing to cross from Morocco into Melilla at a point where the border fence crosses the Nano river
  • Melilla and Ceuta, another Spanish territory in North Africa, have the European Union’s only land borders with Africa

MADRID: Around 150 migrants stormed the border fence separating the Spanish enclave Melilla from Morocco early on Tuesday with nearly 90 managing to cross, officials said.
The incident took place just before dawn where the fence crosses the Nano river, a spokesman for the Spanish government’s local delegation said, indicating “87 of them” got across despite efforts to stop them by the Moroccan and Spanish security forces.
It was the biggest mass attempt to cross the border fence since August 20 when some 300 people stormed the fence, although only around 30 managed to get across and one died during the attempt.
During Tuesday’s incident, nine migrants were hurt while trying to get into the tiny Spanish territory, while the rest were being registered at the migrant reception center, he said.
Interior ministry figures show that in the first two weeks of the year, 60 migrants managed to illegally cross the fence into Melilla while another 70 managed to cross into Ceuta, Spain’s other North African enclave.
Melilla and Ceuta, another Spanish territory in North Africa, have the European Union’s only land borders with Africa.
They are favored entry points for African migrants seeking a better life in Europe, who get there by either climbing over the border fence or by swimming along the coast.
The border crossings between Morocco and both enclaves have been closed since the start of the pandemic last March.