International flights resume to Israel; Hamas ‘victory’ short-lived

American and European aviation officials lifted restrictions on flights to and from Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport on Wednesday night, a day after an unguided Hamas missile landed without incident a mile from the airport, the Jerusalem Post reported.

The missile launch prompted the Federal Aviation Authority to immediately ban flights into Israel, and with the memory of the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 still fresh, the European Aviation Safety Administration did the same. Hamas propagandists described the bans as “a great victory,” according to Israel TV. “We have cowed the Americans.”

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz quickly admonished the Obama administration for playing into Hamas’s hands, emphasizing Israel’s main airport is known for its safety record and security precautions.

“We were tracking it for three minutes, our Air Force,  Israeli spokesman Mark Regev told CNN. “We could have taken it down, but because we saw that it wasn’t going to hit inside the airport, we let it through,” he said.

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Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg hopped on an El Al jet Tuesday night as a show of solidarity and confidence in the security of air travel into Israel.

“I would argue that Ben-Gurion Airport is probably the safest airport in the world to fly in and out of,” Bloomberg said Wednesday, according to Israel Hayom. “This is a country that’s been threatened since its existence back in 1948, when the United Nations created this country, as a homeland for Jews. And Israelis know what it is to keep people safe.”

Katz denied reports that the FAA ban left passengers stranded in Israel, saying 65 percent of ticketed passengers were able to fly out on Wednesday.

El Al, Israir and Arkia airlines increased flights to accommodate the backlog of passengers, while British Airways carried on as scheduled and Ovda Airport in Eilat opened its runways to international carriers.

Watch Bloomberg’s interview here with CNN via YouTube.

Richard Berkow

Former political news reporter Richard Berkow lost his idealism in the Kennedy years, and his innocence in Vietnam, Lebanon, and the Soviet Union. He hasn’t mellowed since, and can be harassed at [email protected]

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