Airlines Say They’ll Defy Hamas Threat to Rocket Israel’s Main Airport
Several Israeli and international air carriers said Wednesday night that they weren’t planning to change or cancel their Israeli flights on Thursday, despite a Hamas threat to bomb Ben-Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv, according to Israel’s Haaretz daily.
“We are warning international airlines and press them to stop flying into Ben Gurion airport from 6 am (0300 GMT) Thursday,” an Izzadin al-Qassam spokesman in Gaza said Wednesday night.
However, Lufthansa, Delta Airlines, British Airways, EasyJet, El Al, Arkia and several other carriers said, that in the case of rocket fire, they’d, at most, only temporarily freeze their schedules, according to the report.
The airlines’ statements indicated that they may not have been willing to repeat the uproar over an abrupt change of flight schedules prompted by a rocket strike near the airport in July.
On July 22, after a particle from a Hamas-fired rocket from Gaza struck a farm about a mile from the airport, the American Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) recommended flights temporarily avoid Israel’s gateway facility for 24-hours.
Delta, United Air Lines, and US Airways, Air Canada, Lufthansa, Turkish Airways, Aeroflot and KLM all suspended flights in the wake of the unusual FAA statement.
The move shocked and outraged many Israelis, who retorted that the direct threat to aircraft by rocket fire was statistically slim, and that the US had not made such recommendations against other conflict plagued countries, including Afghanistan and Ukraine, where a flight had been shot down only days earlier.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called American Secretary of State John Kerry to protest the 24-hour ban, which was soon rescinded.
Hamas immediately hailed the FAA move as a victory against Israel.
“The success of Hamas in closing Israeli airspace is a great victory for the resistance, and is the crown of Israel’s failure,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said after the FAA’s decision.
Some Israeli and American observers suspected the FAA gesture was a politically driven, behind-the-scenes move by Obama Administration officials meant to pressure Israel into a cease-fire with Hamas.
UPDATE – Thursday, 0700 am: Israel Radio reported boosted security forces at the airport, but that no rockets were fired towards the vicinity overnight, and that no flight schedules were affected.