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Reports: Israeli PM's aides break quarantine after US visit

Two of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's senior aides broke quarantine regulations after returning from an official visit to Washington last week, Israeli media reported Monday.

The breaches of health regulations by senior officials — which came as the country entered its second nationwide lockdown — were the latest cases of Israeli leaders and officials not abiding by the rules they have set for the public to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The Israeli delegation landed in Tel Aviv on Wednesday and was required to quarantine for a minimum of five days following last week's ceremony at the White House normalizing ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Israeli police officers detain a protester during a demonstration against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu near the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. (AP PhotoSebastian Scheiner)

President Donald Trump confirmed Wednesday that a White House staffer tested positive for the coronavirus following the ceremony.

Reuven Azar, a national security aide who has been closely involved in managing the coronavirus crisis, visited a supermarket in a Jerusalem suburb on Friday despite the mandated quarantine order, Israeli media reported.

Netanyahu's office did not deny that Azar broke quarantine, but said in a statement that he claimed to have been confused by the government’s lockdown order that went into effect on Friday.

In a statement, it said Azar was reprimanded “so that cases like this aren’t repeated.”

But days before, Azar reportedly left his Washington D.C. hotel to go for a run, in violation of the office's own regulations for the trip.

Meanwhile, Topaz Luk, a social media adviser to the prime minister, was spotted filming demonstrators outside Netanyahu's official residence Sunday night.

Netanyahu's Likud party said Luk “came to perform a coronavirus test in Jerusalem according to the instructions he received from the Health Ministry” and returned home afterward.

The party did not respond to further questions from The Associated Press.

Israel imposed a three-week nationwide lockdown on Friday in an effort to clamp down on the spread of the disease. An exception allowing people to hold public demonstrations was included in the lockdown.

Israel has seen new daily infections skyrocket in recent weeks, climbing to more than 5,000 last week — one of the highest per capita rates in the world. Since the pandemic began this year, Israel has recorded more than 188,000 cases, including over 1,200 deaths, according to Health Ministry figures.

During the country's first lockdown earlier this year, Netanyahu and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin drew criticism after hosting family members for the Passover holiday while urging the public to remain at home.