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Sandstorm in Israel forces Obama to scurry back to motorcade

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A violent sandstorm that kicked up in Jerusalem on the last day of Mr. Obama’s trip grounded President Obama’s helicopter Friday, making it unsafe for Mr. Obama to fly to Palestinian-controlled Bethlehem.

It’s the second transportation mishap of Mr. Obama’s three-day historic trip to Israel. Before the president’s arrival, Mr. Obama’s steel-plated limo, known as “The Beast,” broke down and the Secret Service had to replace it.

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During the morning, Mr. Obama toured Yad Vashem, Israel’s museum dedicated to the Holocaust, and the skies were clear.

But within a few hours, biting winds and flying sand made helicopter travel impossible to Bethlehem, about a 30-minute drive from Jerusalem. Mr. Obama’s 30-car motorcade was then forced to drive at a snail’s pace through the hilly roads and then clear a checkpoint to get to Bethlehem, where he visited the Church of the Nativity, believed to be the site of the Jesus’ birth.

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About the Author

Susan Crabtree

Susan Crabtree is an award-winning investigative reporter with more than 15 years of reporting experience in Washington, D.C. Her reporting about bribery, corruption and conflict-of-interest issues on Capitol Hill has led to several FBI and ethics investigations, as well as consequences for members within their caucuses and at the ballot box. Susan can be reached at

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