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March 5, 2020 12:16 pm
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Coronavirus Threat Intensifies in Israel: Foreign Airlines Cancel Flights, Public Security Minister Seeks Ban on Temple Mount Prayers

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

A Lufthansa plane on the ground at Ben-Gurion International Airport. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The coronavirus crisis intensified in Israel on Thursday, with foreign airlines canceling flights to and from the country and the public security minister requesting a ban on Friday prayers at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Israeli news site Walla reported that the German airline Lufthansa and its subsidiaries SWISS and Austrian Airlines announced that they would “suspend all services” to Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv until March 28.

The action was taken following Israel’s decision to bar visitors from a number of European countries, including Germany, Switzerland and Australia, leading to a collapse in demand for flights.

In addition, Hungary-based low-cost carrier Wizz Air has reduced service on its Israel routes.

Israeli news site N12 reported that, as fear of the virus grows in Israel and with thousands of people already quarantined, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan asked the head of the National Security Council to ban Friday prayers on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in order to prevent contagion.

Some 4,000 Muslims pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Mount every Friday, prompting fears that a mass infection could occur in such a large crowd.

The Palestinian Authority also began to take action against the virus, announcing that it would prevent foreign tourists from entering the territory it controls.

It was announced in the Palestinian media on Thursday morning that four people at a hotel near Bethlehem were identified as carriers of the virus, prompting a two-week closure of all mosques, churches and schools in the city. Hotel employees were quarantined.

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