Some airline passengers arriving and departing Israel faced delays of several hours and rerouted flights this weekend amid US-led air strikes on Syria.Air traffic control centers issued missile alert warnings to pilots flying in the eastern Mediterranean near Syria.
On Saturday, the US, British and French militaries carried out three predawn air strikes in Syria, days after the Syrian army likely used chemical weapons in an attack on a rebel-held suburb of the capital of Damascus. At least 45 people are said to have been killed in the attack on Douma.The impending strike caused some airlines to temporarily suspend and reroute flights this weekend, with Cyprus’s Larnaca International Airport and Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport impacted in particular.Europe’s air traffic control agency – of which Israel is a member – issued a “rapid alert” on Wednesday, warning pilots of possible carrier-based cruise missiles or air-toground strikes into Syria. Pan-European air traffic control agency Eurocontrol added that missiles in the area could interfere and disrupt radio navigation equipment.“Due to the possible launch of air strikes into Syria with air-to-ground and/or cruise missiles within the next 72 hours, and the possibility of intermittent disruption of radio navigation equipment, due consideration needs to be taken when planning flight operations in the eastern Mediterranean/ Nicosia FIR area,” the Eurocontrol warning said, referring to the Cypriot capital.Various airlines chose to alter their flight paths on the Tel Aviv route, from Air France to EasyJet. And China’s Hainan Airlines canceled some flights amid the Eurocontrol warning. Tourism from China is down significantly for the first three months of 2018, following an advisory from the Chinese government that warned about travel to Israel. A spokesperson for El Al declined to comment on how the American air strike has affected operations at its Ben-Gurion Airport hub.Separately on Saturday, Israel closed its airspace on the Golan Heights, in areas east of the Jordan river. Airlines will not be able to fly above 1,500 meters in the area until the end of the month.Aviation agencies in most Western countries have issued warnings urging airlines to avoid Syrian airspace since the civil war there began over seven years ago.
US, British and French forces pound Syria with air strikes early on Saturday in response to a poison gas attack, April 14, 2018(Reuters)