US embassy warns citizens in Israel: Leave now or virus may keep you here
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US embassy warns citizens in Israel: Leave now or virus may keep you here

Travel advisory cites severely limited, frequently changing flights options; urges against boarding planes to Israel as visitors may not get in

The empty departure hall at Ben Gurion International Airport, March 11, 2020. (Flash90)
Illustrative: The empty departure hall at Ben Gurion International Airport, March 11, 2020. (Flash90)

The US embassy in Israel on Sunday warned its citizens to leave the country immediately or face an open-ended stay in Israel because of airlines canceling their services due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“US citizens who live in or seek to travel to the United States should arrange for immediate departure to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain in Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza for an indefinite period,” the embassy said in a travel advisory.

The embassy noted that, as of Sunday, “the only available commercial flight departing Ben Gurion Airport to the United States is on United Airlines, but it is subject to change at any time.”

El Al, Israel’s flag-carrier airline, has already suspended its flights from March 26 until April 4.

“To the best of our knowledge, there are no flights available at this time from Ben Gurion Airport to other destinations, which may provide connections to the United States,” the embassy wrote.

“Further cancellations and suspensions can occur with little or no warning, making availability limited and unpredictable. Your travel plans may be severely disrupted, and you may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite timeframe,” it said.

“The embassy is not able to assist with arranging commercial travel options,” it added.

Noting restrictions Israel applied on March 18 denying entry to the country to any non-residents, the embassy also recommended “travelers not board flights to Israel without a pre-clearance letter from the Israeli government, as there is no assurance they will be admitted into the country.”

As of Sunday evening, there have been 4,247 confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel and 15 people have died. According to the Health Ministry, 74 people are in serious condition, including 59 who were breathing with the help of ventilators. Another 82 people were in moderate condition, while the rest had minor symptoms.

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