US, Israel cancel military exercise over coronavirus

US, Israel cancel military exercise over coronavirus
The United States and Israel will not go ahead with a planned joint military drill in light of the coronavirus outbreak.
2 min read
05 March, 2020
The US and Israel cancelled a joint military drill [Getty]
The United States and Israel have scrapped the remainder of their joint military exercise Juniper Cobra 20 over the coronavirus outbreak, the US European Command based in Germany said Thursday.

"The decision is in alignment with recent Israeli Ministry of Health guidelines on COVID-19, and a precautionary measure to ensure the health and safety of all participants," said USEUCOM in a statement.

The two-week drill which began on Tuesday would have involved 2,500 USEUCOM soldiers, and 1,000 Israeli troops, according to the IDF on Twitter.

Among American troops arriving in Israel for the exercise were some who were to be deployed from their German base. 

But amid the growing spread of the virus, Israel on Wednesday slapped new travel restrictions on five European nations - including Germany, barring entry to almost all non-residents of the Jewish state arriving from these affected countries.

Israel currently has 15 confirmed cases of the virus but no deaths, with some 7,000 others already in home-quarantine.

Meanwhile, Palestine's tourism minister announced Thursday a two-week ban on tourists visiting cities in the occupied West Bank, after the first suspected cases of coronavirus in the territory.

"We have decided to prevent the entry of tourists for a period of 14 days and to prevent all hotels in all cities from receiving foreigners," tourism minister Rula Maayah told AFP.

The Palestinian tourism ministry also said that Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity - revered as the birthplace of Jesus - was to close "until further notice" amid coronavirus fears.

The Palestinian health ministry earlier announced that a number of suspected cases had been detected at a hotel in the Bethlehem area, the first in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The head of the local health directorate, Imad Shahadeh, told AFP that a group of Greek tourists had visited the hotel in late February, with two later discovered to have the virus.

Four suspected cases have been identified among hotel workers, with full confirmation expected later today, he said.

Israel controls all entrances to the West Bank but the Palestinian government has limited autonomy in cities.

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