Sandstorms in Israel, April 1, 2013
Sandstorms in Israel, April 1, 2013 Photo by Nir Keidar
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Heavy haze from sandstorms in the Negev area engulfed most parts of Israel on Monday, limiting visibility to approximately a kilometer. Conditions improved on Monday evening. The Environment Ministry issued a statement warning of high levels of air pollution.

According to the ministry's estimates, Monday's conditions were caused by the worst such storm in four years. Around Gush Dan and Haifa, air pollution levels were 40 times higher than on an average day.

On Monday evening the haze is expected to make its way to the inland areas of Israel, with high levels of sand and dust expected in the mountains.

Due to the weather, Sde Dov Airport in Tel Aviv was closed to civilian air traffic. Arkia and Israir flights to and from Eilat were relocated to Ben Gurion airport, with airlines providing shuttle services for passengers to and from Tel Aviv.

Ben-Gurion International Airport is continuing to operate normally, despite the weather. Most of the air traffic will start tomorrow, when Israelis return from their Passover holidays, and tourists in Israel depart.

According to Meteo-Tech Meteorlogic Services, the haze is a product of a heavy wave of desert dust that has been swept into Israel from Egypt and Libya, which limited visibility in Cairo as well.

Due to the air pollution, people are advised not to spend too much time outside, especially pregnant women or those suffering from respiratory illnesses or heart problems. People are also advised not to engage in heavy physical activity.

The weather is expected to cool down Monday night, with colder and more humid air penetrating Israel, which will gradually reduce the haze.