10 Jews die of coronavirus in Morocco, 26 brought to Israel

The government worked secretly through diplomatic ties with the Moroccan government after an initial operation reportedly failed when the Moroccan government blocked it.

A group of Israelis was evacuated from Morocco after being stranded there for over a month and a half. (photo credit: Courtesy)
A group of Israelis was evacuated from Morocco after being stranded there for over a month and a half.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A group of 26 Israelis in Morocco out of an original group 36 were brought to Israel on Thursday morning in a "philanthropic aerial operation" after being stranded in the North African country for a month and a half, and after the other 10 died of coronavirus.
Israeli aircraft are not technically permitted to land in Morocco. MK Nir Barkat (Likud) was contacted almost two months ago with a request to nevertheless help rescue Israeli civilians stuck in Morocco who were staying in numerous hotels in Marrakesh and Casablanca.
After 10 people from the group died due to COVID-19, the plan began to form, involving using a private aircraft belonging to philanthropists Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson and close and secret diplomatic work with Morocco.
The operation was in secret, according to the government's press release, despite the intent being initially published in early April, and was assisted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu used diplomatic channels to get the proper permissions to achieve the mission, which resulted in the Israelis being flown home through Paris.
"Even during the coronavirus crisis, Israel does not abandon its citizens and makes great efforts to help and return them to Israel," Barkat said after the plane landed in Israel.
"For three months now, I have not seen my family, my three children," said Ilan Hatuel, one of the passengers brought back on the flight. "It is very difficult. I thank the National Security Council and the prime minister, Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, MK Nir Barkat and the entire staff that took care to bring us home."
Channel 13 reported that the group had actually been stranded in Morocco for over two months. At the end of March, when Israel had begun its rescue missions to bring Israelis back home amid coronavirus lockdowns, the request had been made to perform a similar mission in Morocco.
In mid-April, after the Moroccan government had initially approved the mission, they ultimately blocked the evacuation because the Moroccan government was not directly consulted, according to Army Radio. The group was expected to be back in time for the Passover holiday.
The initial plan involved cooperation between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, which also had a group of its citizens stuck in Morocco. The UAE reportedly attempted similar moves with several other countries, according to Army Radio.
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.