Several leading European airlines, on Thursday, extended their suspension of flights to Israel amid concerns over the security situation there.
German airlines Lufthansa and the second largest airlines Air Berlin announced they have cancelled all flights to and from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport scheduled for Thursday.
The flights were suspended after a Hamas-fired rocket landed close to the airport Tuesday. Since the cancellation of flights, there are no “dependable, new information which justifies a resumption of flights”, the Lufthansa group said in a statement.
All 20 flights of the Lufthansa group from Frankfurt, Munich, Cologne, Zurich, Vienna and Brussels to Tel Aviv Scheduled for today have been cancelled, the statement said.
Besides the parent company, the Lufthansa group includes Germanwings, Austrian Airlines, Swiss and Brussels Airlines. In close consultation with the concerned authorities, Lufthansa has been constantly evaluating the security situation for its flight routes, the statement said.
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Air Berlin group said in view of the current situation in Tel Aviv, it decided to cancel all flights to Israel until mid-day on Friday. American aviation authority, however, lifted its ban on US flights to Israel.
It also offered all affected passengers refund of their tickets or possibilities change their reservation. French airlines Air France announced that all flights to Ben Gurion Airport have been cancelled until further notice.
Turkish Airlines also cancelled flights to Israel scheduled for Thursday. British Airways, however, announced that it has no intention to cancel its flights to and from Israel and will stick to its flights schedule for Thursday.
Its position will not be changed even after the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) “strongly recommended” European airlines to avoid flying to and from Tel Aviv for the time being, the airlines said.
Israel has sharply criticised the cancellation of flights as “yielding to terrorism” while Hamas welcomed it as a “victory” over Israel. Israel’s transportation ministry said the Ben Gurion Airport, the country’s main gateway to the outside world, is “safe and completely protected” and there is no reason to cancel flights to and from the airport.
The suspension of flights to Tel Aviv comes at a time when airlines around the world evaluate the safety of their flight routes over conflict zones in the wake of the apparent shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 by a surface-to-air missile fired from the pro-Russian separatists-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine.