Hamas’s biggest success a chance event as airlines shun Israel

International airlines are more anxious about safety since MH17

US travelers AJ  and Patrick, both from Salt Lake City in Utah,  on their mobile phones as they try to book an E-ticket at Ben Gurion Airport near  Tel Aviv, on Wednesday. The two had a Delta Airways ticket to return from Tel Aviv to the United States but Delta, and many other airlines,  cancelled all flights to and from the airport after a rocket fired by Hamas militants on Tuesday exploded close to  the facility. Photograph: Jim Hollander/EPA

US travelers AJ and Patrick, both from Salt Lake City in Utah, on their mobile phones as they try to book an E-ticket at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, on Wednesday. The two had a Delta Airways ticket to return from Tel Aviv to the United States but Delta, and many other airlines, cancelled all flights to and from the airport after a rocket fired by Hamas militants on Tuesday exploded close to the facility. Photograph: Jim Hollander/EPA

Thu, Jul 24, 2014, 01:00

During more than two weeks of fighting,Hamas has been desperately trying to achieve a spectacular success, a “victory photograph” that it could show to the Gaza population.

According to the Israeli military, it had planned an unprecedented attack inside Israeli territory , sending a large number of militants via dozens of tunnels to attack numerous Israeli border communities simultaneously, killing and kidnapping as many people as possible.

This plan was thwarted by the Israeli military, as were two maritime attacks – Hamas naval commandos were killed shortly after landing ashore.

Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system has largely neutralised the rocket threat, intercepting 90 per cent of incoming projectiles heading for Israeli population centres and strategic sites. The Israeli home front kept calm and carried on, despite 2,000 rocket attacks.

Until Tuesday night.

Falling debris

The Iron Dome on Tuesday afternoon once again intercepted a rocket heading in the direction of Ben-Gurion airport, but falling debris destroyed a home a mile from the airport.

This relatively minor incident led , within a few hours, to North American and most European airlines cancelling all flights to and from Israel. Some flights about to land at Ben-Gurion were diverted to other countries.

Hamas had chalked up its biggest success in the conflict to date; the last time foreign airlines suspended service to Israel was in 1991, when Iraq fired Scud missiles at the country.

The decision highlighted Israeli fears that the country might be labelled a war zone and suffer damage to its high- tech and investment sectors, and tourism at the peak of the summer season – 160 flights were cancelled yesterday alone.

Extra flights

Ben-Gurion kept functioning and Israel’s national carrier El Al added extra flights, but the damage was done. Israeli officials were frantic, insisting that Ben-Gurion remains the safest airport in the world with absolutely no danger to incoming or outgoing flights.

However, international airlines are understandably more anxious about safety since last week, when the Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down over Ukraine.

Transport minister Yisrael Katz described the decision to cancel flights as a “prize for Hamas” and said it was impossible for a Hamas rocket to hit an aircraft.

Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu asked US secretary of state John Kerry to work to help restore US commercial flights to Israel.

Sign In

Forgot Password?

Sign Up

The name that will appear beside your comments.

Have an account? Sign In

Forgot Password?

Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In or Sign Up

Thank you

You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.

Hello, .

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

Thank you for registering. Please check your email to verify your account.

We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.