Hamas threatens airlines, Ben-Gurion closes to arriving flights

Hamas warned international airlines from flying to Israel, saying it was targeting airports in Israel.

Delta airline plane (photo credit: REUTERS)
Delta airline plane
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Ben-Gurion Airport began rerouting all inbound flights to Ramon International Airport in southern Israel on Thursday morning, as terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip continued to launch rockets into Israeli territory. Departing flights will still take off from Ben-Gurion Airport.
Hamas' military wing, the Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades, sent out a blast message on Thursday to international airlines, warning them that they will be targeting Israeli airports, and called it a "legal disclaimer" to serve a as a warning.
United Airlines, Delta Airlines and American Airlines have canceled flights between the United States and Tel Aviv, according to data by flight tracker FlightAware, amid an escalating conflict in Israel.
British Airways, Luftansa, Iberia and Virgin Atlantic have also canceled flights to Tel Aviv.
El Al is currently running emergency flights out of the country, despite many incoming flights being canceled due to the ongoing escalation.
There is currently a backlog of people at Ramon Airport waiting to be tested for coronavirus, according to a Jerusalem Post correspondent.
Passengers are uncertain how and when they will depart from Eilat back to their homes across the country.
Israel said it killed 16 members of the Hamas armed wing in Gaza in a barrage on Wednesday and Palestinian terrorists rained rockets into Israel in one of their most intense hostilities in years.
In a statement, shortly after a large barrage of rockets towards southern and central Israel on Thursday afternoon, Abu-Ubaida, spokesman of Hamas's military wing the Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades, claimed that Hamas was launching rockets towards Ramon Airport with the 250 Ayyash rocket which he claimed is a strong rocket with a range greater than 250 km.
The Al-Qassam spokesman warned international airlines to immediately halt all flights to Israel.
Abu-Ubaida called the barrage "a victory for Al-Aqsa and part of our response to the assassination of our heroic leaders and engineers."
United Airlines said it had canceled flights from Chicago and Newark to Tel Aviv on May 11 and flights from San Francisco and Newark on May 12.
"We have issued a travel waiver to allow customers to adjust their travel through May 25 and will continue to monitor the situation," a United spokeswoman said.
A spokesman for Delta, which flies to Tel Aviv from New York's John F. Kennedy International (JFK) airport, said it has issued a travel wavier for flights between May 11 and 13 and has "no determination about resumption at this juncture."
American Airlines, which also flies to Tel Aviv from JFK, had no immediate comment.
British Airways announced it cancelled its flight to and from Tel Aviv on Thursday amid the escalating conflict.
"The safety and security of our colleagues and customers is always our top priority, and we continue to monitor the situation closely," the airline said. 
El Al Israel Airlines said earlier on Wednesday it stood ready to operate extra flights as required "to keep Israel's skies open." This could include special flights to repatriate Israelis stranded "in locations from which it is not possible to return home," it said in a statement.
Israel on Monday briefly halted takeoffs from its main Ben-Gurion Airport and diverted incoming flights after a Hamas rocket barrage on the Tel Aviv area. The country has a smaller airport in the South, called Ramon, designed to serve as a stop-gap should wartime threats force longer closures of Ben-Gurion.
Since last Monday, some 1,200 rockets have been fired into Israel, as terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip and the IDF clash amid tensions over Jerusalem.
Rockets from Gaza have killed seven Israelis, including a father and a daughter when one rocket made a direct hit in Lod.
Another casualty was Omer Tabib, an IDF soldier who was set to be released next month.