By Rashi Varshney
All three major U.S. airlines—American, Delta, and United—have suspended flights in and out of Tel Aviv, after Israel was attacked by Iran-backed Hamas terrorists over the weekend.
Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, the country’s main international airport, remains open, although the U.S. Embassy in Israel has warned that “the security situation and staff availability could affect flights.”
“While Ben Gurion International Airport remains open, we are aware that several major airlines have announced that they have suspended flights,” the State Department said in a travel update on Oct. 8.
Following Hamas’s surprise attack—a large-scale assault on Israeli citizens beginning on the morning of Oct. 7 —major disruptions to air travel were reported at Ben Gurion Airport and beyond.
Emirates, Lufthansa, and Ryanair were among other carriers that canceled flights at Ben Gurion Airport.
The three U.S. airlines have also issued travel waivers that allow passengers scheduled to fly to and from Israel to rebook; United’s waiver also covers flights to and from Amman, Jordan.
United Airlines flight UA954, which departed from San Francisco International Airport for Tel Aviv, was forced to turn back while it was over Greenland, after 13 hours of flying.
Representatives of the U.S. airlines didn’t respond by press time to requests by The Epoch Times for more details about the suspension.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) earlier issued a notice for the airlines and air missions to use “caution” while flying at any altitude within Israeli airspace.
A notice to air missions caution notice issued by the agency reads that the current conditions are “potentially hazardous” and that flight crews should keep in “uninterrupted contact” with air traffic control all the time when flying in the affected region.
The FAA also cautioned that it could potentially issue an announcement on the closure of Israeli airspace.
In an official statement, the FAA said the notice, which mirrors alerts issued by the Israeli government, applies to all altitudes because of events that occurred within 24 hours of when the statement was released.
On Oct. 9, Hong Kong’s Cathy Pacific and Hungary’s Wizz Air joined in the precautions, announcing that their flights to and from Tel Aviv have been canceled until further notice.
US Embassy Assistance
The U.S. Embassy in Israel has released a security alert advising U.S. citizens in the country to seek assistance by contacting the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through a designated crisis intake form, which can be accessed via the U.S. Embassy website. Family members have the option to submit information on behalf of their U.S. citizen relatives.
“The situation in Israel continues to be unpredictable,” the security alert reads. “Individuals should follow local government advice to increase their security awareness and remain safe. Mortar and rocket fire may take place without warning.”
According to the State Department, U.S. travelers in Israel and the West Bank are urged to “exercise increased caution” because of terrorism and civil unrest. A “do not travel” warning for Gaza remains in place.
“U.S. citizens in Gaza who wish to leave and can do so safely are advised to check the status of the Rafah Crossing into Egypt,” the department stated on Oct. 8.
‘We Are at War’
Following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement on Oct. 7, “We are at war,” the Israeli Security Cabinet formally declared war on Hamas on Oct. 8.
Mr. Netanyahu’s office described the move as the first such declaration since the 1973 Yom Kippur War. According to a statement posted on social media, the Security Cabinet approved the war situation, authorizing significant military actions as per Article 40 of Basic Law.
“We follow international law, while exercising our right and responsibility to protect our civilians,” Israel Defense Force spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said in an Oct. 8 statement. “We will restore security to the people of Israel.
“Israeli intelligence indicates that Hamas are hiding among Gazan civilians, inside Gazan homes and schools, hospitals, and mosques—Hamas behaves like ISIS. It’s the same strategy, to maximize civilian casualties in Gaza and Israel, to make you all forget that massacre of hundreds of Israelis that started this war in the first place.
“We will not forget. Hamas terrorists target Israeli civilians, Israel will target Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists wherever they will be in Gaza.”