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Passengers still stuck in Tel Aviv after flights grounded

Natalie Muller/ Reuters, AFP, dpaJuly 23, 2014

Scores of passengers are still stranded after dozens of flights to and from Tel Aviv were cancelled. This came after at least one rocket fired from Gaza reportedly struck near the city's main airport.

Passengers waiting at Tel Aviv airport
Image: Reuters

The rocket landed near Ben Gurion airport on Tuesday, prompting several international airlines, including Germany's Lufthansa and Air Berlin, to suspend flights to Tel Aviv for safety reasons.

The companies said they would also cancel Thursday's services to Israel's main airport, after announcing on Tuesday that all Tel Aviv-bound flights would be halted for 36 hours.

Lufthansa group, which also operates Germanwings, Austrian Airlines and Swiss and Brussels Airlines, said it was "evaluating the security situation in close consultation with the responsible authorities."

Meanwhile, hundreds of holiday makers and would-be passengers have been left stranded.

"I don't think it's any more dangerous than usual. There are rockets everywhere, they usually don't cause any damage," one passenger told DW.

"It's hard to hear things on the news about soldiers dying and to go on a vacation," another waiting traveler said. "I don't think the flights are more in danger than [they would be in] on the ground."

Many passengers wanted to leave the country as quickly as possible, but one vacationing couple told DW they were in no rush to get away: "We haven't felt any fear, we enjoyed our holiday and we had plenty of room - we didn't have to book in advance at hotels."

Not safe to fly

The Islamist group Hamas and its allies have been firing rockets at Israel over the past two weeks, as the country continues an offensive in the Palestinian territory.

Lufthansa normally operates between seven and 10 flights to Tel Aviv daily, from Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich, Zurich and Vienna.

Air France also announced it would suspend flights "until further notice." Dutch flag carrier KLM followed suit.

"We have canceled our flight to Tel Aviv as a precaution because we can't secure passengers' safety," KLM spokeswoman Joyce Veekman said. "We'll review the situation every day."

Earlier, the US carriers Delta, US Airways and United Airlines had announced similar moves.

This comes just days after a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board. This raised questions about whether airlines should be operating over zones of armed conflict.

pfd/mkg/nm (Reuters, AFP, dpa)