The operation came after a failed first attempt in early April due to miscommunication between Israeli and Moroccan authorities.
The group left Morocco via Casablanca’s Mohammed V Airport on Wednesday, May 13, on a flight heading to Paris. A “philanthropic” private jet then flew the Israeli citizens from the French capital back to Israel, the Jerusalem Post reported.
The repatriation operation took place in secret, according to the Israeli government, and negotiations between Morocco and Israel took over one month. The fact Morocco does not allow direct flights to and from Israel complicated the talks, according to the Israeli newspaper.
Pictures of the Israeli tourists after their flight landed show the group carrying a banner bearing the slogan: “Special thanks to King Mohammed VI of Morocco.” The group also carried banners thanking Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, the Israeli donors who financed their return flight.
Unlike many other countries, Israel does not finance repatriation flights for its citizens from the public budget, but from private donations.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the group of stranded tourists originally comprised 36 Israelis, but 10 had died due to COVID-19 before they could fly back to Israel.
The tourists stayed in hotels in Marrakech and Casablanca for more than one and a half months.
The successful repatriation flight took place after a failed attempt in early April. According to Israeli media, Morocco had agreed to facilitate a repatriation flight for stranded Israelis. However, Israeli diplomacy angered Rabat after failing to disclose all of the flight’s details to Moroccan authorities.
Morocco was surprised to discover that both Israel and the UAE agreed to evacuate their citizens in a joint flight without consulting Moroccan authorities, leading to a delay in repatriation of more than one month for the stranded Israelis.
While Morocco has been facilitating the repatriation of foreigners stuck in the country since closing its borders on March 15, it has not yet moved to repatriate its own citizens stranded in various locations across the world.
As of May 12, Morocco had helped 84,449 stranded tourists to return home through the provision of 532 special flights.
Meanwhile, 27,850 Moroccan nationals are stuck abroad, away from their families, without any sign of when they will be able to come home.
On April 23, Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita shared that Morocco is planning to repatriate all of its citizens stranded abroad, saying, “Moroccans have the right to come home. It’s incontestable.”
However, the minister has not yet announced a date for repatriation, explaining that the plan depends on the country’s health situation.
On May 7, the Moroccan government reiterated the importance of rigorously preparing for the repatriation of Moroccans stranded abroad.
The government is closely monitoring the situation of stranded Moroccans, and Morocco’s diplomatic representations made efforts to accommodate and support 5,704 of the stranded nationals, Government Spokesperson Said Amzazi said.
“The return of Moroccans stranded abroad must take into account the evolution of the spread of the virus, within the framework of the overall approach adopted by the kingdom to face this pandemic, so that this return does not constitute a risk either for these people or for their country,” Amzazi continued.
However, the ambiguity of the government’s statements and the uncertainty surrounding the repatriation date have left Moroccans across the world unsure of their fate.