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February 27, 2020 12:14 pm

IDF Cancels Joint Exercise With US European Command Due to Coronavirus Fears

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

US Marines and IDF soldiers participate in a joint exercise, in Zeelim, southern Israel, March 12, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Amir Cohen.

The IDF on Thursday decided to postpone an annual joint military exercise with the US European Command scheduled for next week due to the coronavirus epidemic, the Israeli news site Walla reported.

The cancellation was reportedly prompted by the spread of the disease to Italy and the Israeli Health Ministry’s recommendation against any unnecessary foreign travel.

However, the IDF will hold its biannual Juniper Cobra drill with the US military, which takes place inside Israel itself. The IDF said in a statement that all visiting US soldiers who had come from Italian bases would be sent home to prevent contagion.

“The IDF is making regular and up-to-date assessments on the issue in order to ensure the health of the regular and reserve soldiers who take part in the exercise,” the army stated.

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Thus far, 93 IDF soldiers have been quarantined due to fear of infection, most of whom had either returned from trips abroad or been in contact with a South Korean delegation that recently visited Israel.

The IDF is also postponing the departure of its “witnesses in uniform” delegations, as part of which Israel soldiers travel to Poland to take part in Holocaust commemoration and education activities. Other official visits to Europe are also being put off for the moment.

Furthermore, the IDF said its Home Front Command was in constant contact with the Health Ministry and was aiding in preparations for a possible coronavirus outbreak in Israel.

The Health Ministry recommended against foreign travel on Wednesday in an attempt to limit Israel’s exposure to the coronavirus.

Siegal Sadetzki, the Health Ministry’s director of public health services, said, “Israel is in a different situation than Europe. Europe is a large continent with free transit between countries.”

Israel, she noted, had “a window of opportunity” to close its borders and prevent the spread of the virus.

“We are in a very critical window of opportunity in trying to stave off the disease and reduce the extent of the spread,” she stated. “There will be no way to take the steps we are taking when an outbreak happens.”

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