Australian police are stationed outside a synagogue after a group of Jewish worshippers reportedly breached Covid restrictions to take part in Rosh Hashanah, marking the Jewish New Year.

In scenes resembling a bank robbery or hostage situation, Melbourne police surrounded the Ripponlea synagogue in the early hours of Tuesday morning, waiting for Jewish worshippers to exit the building.

More than 100 people were reportedly marking the Jewish New Year, known as Rosh Hashanah, in the synagogue in Melbourne’s southeast, according to Australian daily The Age.

Police refused to comment on the ongoing situation, while staff from the Department of Health joined them surrounding the place of worship.

The alleged gathering is in breach of the state of Victoria’s lockdown measures, which have been imposed since August 5. Private and public gatherings are not permitted under the strict state rules, which also apply to religious gatherings and require places of worship to remain closed. Those in breach may face large fines.

Videos emerged on Tuesday of media confronting worshippers who finally exited the synagogue. 

Some of the Ripponlea worshippers finally emerged after 8pm – media forced around the other side of the building after things got hairy

Other footage depicted dozens of other Orthodox Jews singing in a neighbouring alley, seemingly in support of those inside.  

Still no movement on worshippers inside the Ripponlea synagogue where up to 100 are believed to be marking Jewish New Year in what appears to be a breach of COVID-19 restrictions, but there are dozens of people now singing in the alley near it

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews condemned the gathering. “We’ve all got to be safe in everything we do, regardless of what might motivate us,” Andrews said. 

The premier said he was grateful for the members of the Jewish community who had been quick in the past to call out breeches of his tough Covid mandates.

Labour member Josh Burns, whose seat represents the suburb where the synagogue is located, said there’s “nothing pious about ignoring the health rules and putting lives at risk.”

The Victorian premier’s strict lockdown measures have come under scrutiny this month. Last week, the Age released an editorial. “Enough,” said The Age, criticizing the tough restrictions and lack of hope provided by premier Andrews.The editorial caused a huge regional outrage in Victoria, dividing supporters and opponents of the region’s lockdown restrictions.

Victoria is approaching the 250-day mark of lockdowns since the pandemic began.

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