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LDS Church president leaves Jerusalem early over regional tensions

President Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Wendy, greet six-year-old Juan David Vargas Saavedra and his five-year-old brother Joseph Daniel Vargas Saavedra. With them are their parents, Nairo Vargas Guerrero and Anna Alicia Vargas Saavedra, and sisters Valentina and Isabella. The family met President Nelson at his first stop of the global ministry tour, at the historic Hyde Park Chapel in London, England, on April 12, 2018. (Courtesy: LDS Church)

JERUSALEM — LDS Church President Russell M. Nelson has cut short a planned visit to Israel amid word of military strikes being conducted in neighboring Syria.

A spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Doug Anderson, issued this statement Saturday:

“President Nelson has left Jerusalem ahead of schedule. Due to concerns pertaining to tension in the region, and available airspace, he and Sister Nelson departed after today’s district conference.

“Elder and Sister Holland are with them and will commence the Africa portion of this trip sooner than planned.”

President Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Wendy, greet a young girl after a devotional at the Hyde Park Chapel in London, England, on April 12, 2018. (Courtesy: LDS Church)

President Nelson and his wife, Sister Wendy W. Nelson, are currently on a world tour that saw them stop in London on Thursday before traveling to Israel on Friday.

They, along with church apostle Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and his wife, Sister Patricia Holland, were originally planning to stay a little longer in Israel before moving to Kenya, Zimbabwe, India, Thailand, Hong Kong and Hawaii.

The Damascus sky lights up missile fire as the U.S. launches an attack on Syria targeting different parts of the capital early Saturday, April 14, 2018. Syria’s capital has been rocked by loud explosions that lit up the sky with heavy smoke as U.S. President Donald Trump announced airstrikes in retaliation for the country’s alleged use of chemical weapons. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

U.S. President Donald Trump announced strikes in Syria Friday along with allies France and Britain as a response to suspected chemical weapons attacks about a week ago in Douma, Syria. Israel has also targeted Syria with missile strikes in the past, generally targeting what it believes are shipments of weapons to Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group which is backed by Iran.