Israeli Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman resigns in protest over holiday lockdown

Ultra-Orthodox students at their school in the city of Rehovot

Netanyahu announced a new countrywide lockdown will be imposed amid a stubborn surge in coronavirus cases, with schools and parts of the economy expected to shut down in a bid to bring down infection rates.

Israel had imposed strict lockdown measures for almost two months from mid-March, which reduced the number of daily infections to below 10. 'This is not the holiday we are used to'.

A powerful ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quit the government on Sunday over a proposal to lock down the country during the upcoming Jewish holiday season to try to contain a coronavirus outbreak.

Israel earned praise for its initial handling of the coronavirus outbreak, moving quickly to seal the country's borders and appearing to bring infections under control.

In France, the Prime Minister Jean Castex said the situation was "obviously worsening" in the country as authorities report 9,843 new cases, the largest daily increase since the pandemic began.

Litzman claimed the government was scheduling the lockdown for the holidays even though he and Gamzu had reached an understanding on the issue.

Last week, the government imposed a curfew in 40 high-risk towns and neighbourhoods, the vast majority Arab or ultra-Orthodox communities.

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Under the lockdown guidelines, still to be finalised, indoor gatherings would be limited to 10 people and outdoor gatherings to 20, meaning prayers at synagogues would be severely impacted. Schools, restaurants, malls, and hotels will shut down, among other businesses, and Israelis will face restrictions on movement and on gatherings.

On Sunday, Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman of the ultra-orthodox United Torah Judaism party resigned in protest of the lockdown's timing, which he said was an affront to Israel's Jews.

In his resignation letter, he said: "This wrongs and scorns hundreds of thousands of citizens".

Despite early successes in stemming the virus spread, protests have broken out as cases have risen against Netanyahu and the government's handling of the pandemic.

The country has reported nearly 150,000 cases and more than 1,000 deaths, and is also in recession as a result of the pandemic, with unemployment above 20 percent.

They blocked roads to Ben Gurion airport, from where Mr Netanyahu flew to the U.S. to attend the signing of agreements normalising ties with Bahrain and the UAE.

Large-scale demonstrations have been held every weekend to protest Netanyahu's measures to curb infections.

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