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(photo credit: Adrian Korsner)
Despite the strike that kept Israel's borders closed since Wednesday morning, the Histadrut Labor Union gave special permission to a few humanitarian flights to operate through Ben-Gurion Airport.
El Al said it was granted permission late Wednesday to fly to Brussels to bring the families of kidnapped soldiers Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev back to Israel.
The three families were in Brussels for a two-day visit lobbying European Union officials to help secure the release of the soldiers.
After spending the day in negotiations with the Histadrut committee dealing with exemptions regarding the strike, El Al said a flight to Brussels would leave Israel at 11p.m. Wednesday and that the families were scheduled to arrive back in Tel Aviv at 9:40 a.m. Thursday.
El Al said it would carry other passengers that had been prevented from leaving the country on the LY331 flight that had been scheduled to leave for Brussels Wednesday afternoon.
The Histadrut also gave El Al permission to operate its 5:20 p.m. flight to Kiev carrying 15 women who are due to receive medical attention there and German airline Lufthansa said it received clearance to operate its normal night flight out of Frankfurt Wednesday which will bring an Israeli girl, injured in a car accident in Germany, to Israel for treatment.
Others, however, were not as lucky.
Air Canada Ruth Ben-Tzur said the airline had flown a doctor to Canada to take care of an Israeli woman in need of special treatment in Israel and that she was still waiting for an answer from the Histadrut to its request to operate a flight from Toronto.
"A strike like this is not just about airlines, it's about people who have good reasons to fly," Ben-Tzur said. "You don't close a country. Even in war, you let people in. You have to keep the skies open."