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IDF brings 30 sailors back from Germany after country imposes lockdown

The Israel Defense Forces retrieved some 30 Israel Navy sailors from Germany on Sunday, after Berlin ordered all hotels in the country closed.

The soldiers had been deployed to Germany to prepare for the acquisition of new Sa’ar-6 corvettes, which are being built in the German port of Kiel.

The military said a 16-person Israeli Air Force crew on a C-130 transport plane was sent to Germany to retrieve the conscripted sailors, who were training to operate the ships, which are meant to begin arriving in Israel later this year.

“The soldiers will enter quarantine upon their return in accordance with Health Ministry directives,” the IDF said in a statement.

A team of career officers and non-commissioned officers will remain in Germany for the time being to continue training on the ships, which are meant to be used to defend Israel’s offshore natural gas reserves, the military said.

Germany on Sunday banned gatherings of more than two people, in a bid to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. The country has already closed schools and non-essential shops.

At least 16 IDF soldiers have been diagnosed with the coronavirus as of Sunday, while another 6,098 service members and civilian employees of the military were in isolation after either returning from abroad or coming into contact with confirmed carriers of the disease.

The military has been striving to ensure that it can continue to operate as normal despite the pandemic: keeping soldiers confined to base, barring them from using public transportation, screening visitors to military facilities, and having troops work on a system of staggered shifts to ensure that entire units cannot become infected.

In addition, the IDF has been working on multiple fronts to assist civilian authorities combat the disease and to prepare for the possibility of needing to further intervene and support the public if the situation deteriorates further.

Note: The Sa’ar 6-class corvette is a class of four German-made warships ordered for the Israeli Navy in May 2015. The ships’ design will be loosely based on the German Braunschweig-class corvette, but with engineering changes to accommodating Israeli-built sensors and missiles such as the Barak 8 and the naval Iron Dome system. Elbit Systems has been awarded the contract to design and build the Electronic Warfare (EW) suites for the ships.