Several airlines began canceling flights from the United States to Israel on Saturday after Hamas militants surprised the Middle Eastern country with a multi-pronged attack that has claimed hundreds of lives and appears far from over.
The American Embassy in Israel said Early Saturday afternoon, authorities announced that Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport remained open, but noted that the security situation and staff availability could impact flights. Travelers are advised to check with their airlines.
Emergency accommodation is available for embassy staff.
Delta, United and American Airlines have canceled all direct flights scheduled for Saturday and Sunday to Ben Gurion Airport, Israel’s main commercial air hub.
American told HuffPost in a statement that this was the case waive fees for switching flights to Israel by next week and would “continue to monitor the situation with safety and security in mind and adjust our operations as necessary.” United also said it was “closely monitoring the situation.”
German airline Lufthansa said CNN in a statement that a flight from Tel Aviv to Frankfurt would take place this weekend, but others were canceled.
Some planes bound for Tel Aviv were diverted mid-flight when fighting broke out: a Ryanair flight from Berlin had to return to its origin, as did a United flight from San Francisco, it is said FlightAwarea flight tracking website.
El Al flights appear to be operating normally. Israel’s national airline equips its planes with missile defense systems and has continued to fly when other airlines grounded their planes in the past. A CNN team landed at Ben Gurion Airport documented the scene on the ground when the sirens went off Saturday.
The US State Department had already warned the Americans before the Hamas attack against traveling to Gaza and generally advised caution when traveling to Israel because of the threat of terrorism.
Early Saturday, Hamas militants began firing thousands of rockets from Gaza, the strip of land that borders the Mediterranean, toward cities in southern and central Israel. The violence is considered the largest attack on Israel since the 1973 conflict between the country and its Arab neighbors.
In a televised address, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the nation that they were “at war” and that “the enemy will pay an unprecedented price.”
According to the American Embassy in Israel, along with military forces, Israeli civilians were killed and injured, and Hamas militants brought hostages back to Gaza. President Joe Biden said in brief remarks pledging support for Israel that “entire families” had been taken hostage.
All U.S. citizens in Gaza who wish to leave will be directed to the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.