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100 cases of shortness of breath amid Israel’s air pollution

Winds and dust cause breathing complications, haze throughout country; close airports

An Arab couple stands atop the Mount of Olives, overlooking towards the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem and the distinctive golden Dome of the Rock, as a sandstorm hits the capital Monday. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
An Arab couple stands atop the Mount of Olives, overlooking towards the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem and the distinctive golden Dome of the Rock, as a sandstorm hits the capital Monday. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

One hundred cases of shortness of breath were reported and treated Monday as a thick haze covered most regions in Israel, with high air pollution levels causing breathing complications.

Beginning Monday morning, Israel was hit by strong winds and dust as sandstorms traveled northeast from Egypt. In some coastal areas, air pollution levels were 40 times higher than usual, Channel 2 reported Monday night.

Environmental Protection Ministry officials advised people with heart and lung conditions, the elderly, young children and pregnant women to stay inside and avoid excessive exercise.

Due to the weather, the National Traffic Police asked that drivers turn on their headlights and take road conditions into consideration. Visibility in most areas throughout the country was below 3 miles (5 kilometers) at 1 a.m. local time, and at Ben-Gurion International Airport, visibility was down to less than a mile, according to Israel Radio.

Domestic flights with Arkia were redirected until 7 pm from Sde Dov Airport to Ben-Gurion, though Sde Dov remained open with limited air traffic coming in and out. At 7 pm on Monday, flights from Sde Dov resumed.

Officials at the domestic airport just north of Tel Aviv said they were making “case-by-case” decisions on flights. At the Haifa Airport, officials said commercial flights would be grounded until 5 pm local time.

The haze was expected to dissipate gradually, and temperatures were dropping considerably due to stronger winds by Monday evening.

Despite the poor conditions, some 50,000 Israelis visited the country’s nature reserves and national parks on Monday.

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