Saturday, 6 Jun 2020 - 14 of Sivan, 5780

26 Israelis stranded in Morocco because of the coronavirus crisis brought back to Israel in secret ‘philanthropic aerial operation’

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After 10 people from the original  group of 36 died due to COVID-19, the plan began to form, involving using a private aircraft belonging to the Adelsons as well as close and secret diplomatic work with Morocco.

26 Israelis stranded in Morocco for a month and a half because of the coronavirus pandemic have been brought to Israel on Thursday in what is described as a “philanthropic aerial operation.”

The rescue, which was spearheaded by Likud Knesset member and former Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, involved intense efforts by Israel’s National Security Council and the use of a Boeing 767 belonging to American philanthropists Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson.

Among the passengers were Israeli youth who were on an overseas trip, an Israeli Bedouin from eastern Jerusalem, and Israeli and Jewish businessmen with dual Israeli-Moroccan citizenship. They were staying in hotels in Marrakesh and Casablanca.

Morocco does not maintain diplomatic relations with Israel and Israeli aircraft are not technically permitted to land in Morocco. The stranded Israelis appealed to private entities for assistance. The matter was brought to Nir Barkat’s attention and his took the lead on the extraction, keeping in constant contact with the group as various options were explored.

After 10 people from the original  group of 36 died due to COVID-19, the plan began to form, involving using a private aircraft belonging to the Adelsons as well as close and secret diplomatic work with Morocco.

The operation was in secret, according to a government’s press release and was assisted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The group left Morocco on Wednesday for Paris on an Air France flight. Once in the French capital, the Israelis boarded the Adelsons’ plane and headed home.

“This was a very complicated process because Morocco has no diplomatic relations with us. For some time, authorities would not grant the necessary permits [for the group]to leave the country and it took considerable efforts to bring them back to Israel,” said Nir Barkat.

“Even during the coronavirus crisis, Israel does not abandon its citizens and makes great efforts to help and return them to Israel,” he added.

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