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Yaakov Litzman

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image captionYaakov Litzman said the lockdown would prevent Orthodox Jews from being able to celebrate religious festivals

An Israeli cabinet minister has resigned in protest against plans to impose a second national lockdown.

Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman said the restrictions would prevent Jewish people from celebrating religious festivals later this month.

The lockdown is due to come into force on Friday, the Jewish new year, and affect Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, on 27 September.

Mr Litzman also threatened to pull his party out of the governing coalition.

The measures will be the most extensive imposed in Israel since the country’s first lockdown, which ran from late March until early May.

Mr Litzman, who leads an ultra-Orthodox Jewish party, said in his resignation letter: “This wrongs and scorns hundreds of thousands of citizens.

“Where were you until now? Why have the Jewish holidays become a convenient address for tackling the coronavirus?”

media captionCoronavirus: Israel’s ultra-Orthodox lockdown challenge

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faced criticism for his handling of the outbreak. Critics say his failure to tackle the virus effectively has led to another national lockdown.

Israel, which has a population of about nine million, has reported more than 3,000 new cases a day in recent weeks.

Many nations are experiencing second surges of the virus. However most governments are now imposing smaller local lockdowns in affected areas, rather than blanket national ones.

image copyrightReuters
image captionPrime Minister Netanyahu has faced criticism for his handling of the outbreak

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri – who leads another ultra-Orthodox party – said in a video posted on Twitter that he supported the planned restrictions, and that not abiding by them would be tantamount to murder.

Addressing the cabinet as it convened to vote on the lockdown on Sunday, Mr Netanyahu said he regretted Mr Litzman’s resignation.

He added: “We have to move on, to make the decisions necessary for Israel in the coronavirus era, and that is what we will do in this session.”

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