A United Airlines flight to Tel Aviv is diverting back to San Francisco after Hamas terrorists carried out a deadly attack in Southern Israel on Saturday morning, killing dozens of civilians, injuring hundreds more and taking scores hostage in a major escalation of violence in the region.
The unprecedented terrorist attack started with a massive rocket attack from Gaza, leading to ‘Red Alert’ sirens sounding across much of Israel. As the attack intensified, passengers at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport were sent scuttling for safety as sirens wailed across the country.
Aside from some short ground stops, flights to and from TLV airport have been able to continue throughout Saturday, although some airlines have apparently cancelled or delayed flights in response to the unfolding situation in Israel.
German flag carrier Lufthansa has currently cancelled three scheduled flights to Tel Aviv from its hubs in Frankfurt and Munich, although a spokesperson noted that one flight from Frankfurt might still go ahead.
The airline said that it was “monitoring the very dynamic security situation in Tel Aviv and is in close contact with the authorities. The safety of our guests and crew members is Lufthansa’s top priority.”
Flight UA954 from San Francisco is one of three United Airlines flights due to arrive in Tel Aviv on Saturday, but the Boeing 777-300 suddenly diverted as it was flying over Greenland and started to return to the Californian city.
Passengers onboard the United jet will have been flying for nearly 14 hours only to land back exactly where they started.
United did not immediately confirm the reason for the diversion, but the airline’s two other Tel Aviv-bound flights from Newark and Washington Dulles are still due to arrive in Israel as scheduled.
Flights operated by American Airlines and Delta Air Lines from New York JFK are also still due to arrive in Tel Aviv as normal.
The State Department has issued an urgent security alert for Israel, telling US citizens to “remain vigilant” and to “take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness”.
The US Embassy in Jerusalem said its staff were currently sheltering in place as the Israeli Defense Forces mounted a counter-offensive against Hamas militants.
In a statement, a spokesperson for United Airlines told us: “The safety of our customers and crews is our top priority. We are closely monitoring the situation and we are adjusting flight schedules as required.”
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