It’s not war, it’s just the Middle East: Tel Aviv flight patterns again altered due to risk of rocket fire

Swiftly following on the heels of an Israeli security operation inside the Gaza Strip late Sunday night in which a senior Hamas terrorist commander and one Israeli officer were killed, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) ordered changes to flight patterns to Ben Gurion Airport—essentially Israel’s only international airport.

Last month, after terrorist factions in the Gaza Strip fired dozens of rockets toward Israel, authorities at Tel Aviv’s busy Ben-Gurion Airport also had to alter landing routes for incoming flights.

As of 2AM Monday morning there were no specific details as to which airlines are affected by these latest modifications, though very likely it is all of them. Following the security operation, in which at least five other Hamas militants were said killed, volleys of rockets were fired at Israeli communities near the Gaza border and schools were ordered to stay closed Monday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was reportedly cutting short a diplomatic visit to Paris to return to Israel.

Also in October, a rocket fired from Gaza struck and destroyed house in the Israeli city of Beersheva, while another projectile fired in the same barrage fell into the Mediterranean Sea. Whether that “errant” rocket came close to any airliners approaching the Israeli coast at the time, if it was investigated, was not reported.

This is not by a long shot the first time planes landing at Ben Gurion have had to shift their trajectories due to the danger of rocket fire. Earlier this year, due to a military incident involving Israel and Syria, flights into and out of Ben Gurion International Airport were briefly suspended as, Israeli media reported.

Immediately following the incident, in which an Israeli F-16 jet was shot down by Syrian fire,  civilian airspace over northern Israel was shut down.  The flight suspensions at Ben Gurion, much to the south of the Israeli-Jordanian-Syrian border area, lasted less than an hour.

Economic impacts

Some 90 percent of travelers entering and leaving Israel do so through Ben Gurion Airport. During the Gaza war (called Operation Protective Edge in Israel)  in summer 2014, the FAA issued a ban on flights to Ben Gurion that lasted 48 hours, however the airport was never officially closed. Missiles fired from Gaza came close to the airport prompting some airlines such as El Al to alter their flight paths until a cessation of hostilities.

Both American Airlines and more recently WOW, the Icelandic low-cost airline, announced they would no longer fly to Tel Aviv. While marketing reasons were cited in each of those decisions, were security risks and insurance considerations also a factor?

Israeli authorities have in recent months discussed with their Cypriot counterparts the possibility of creating sea lane from Gaza to the Mediterranean holiday island. The persistent issue of potentially deadly rocket fire emanating from Gaza may call into question the viability of any such undertaking.