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British Airways suspends all flights to Tel Aviv after plane turns around

British Airways said on Wednesday it would suspend all of its flights to Tel Aviv after it diverted a flight from London back to Britain due to security concerns in Israel.

Separately, Virgin Atlantic said it will halt all flights to and from Tel Aviv for the next 72 hours, citing the safety of passengers and crew.

A spokesperson for Israel’s airports authority said rockets were flying around Tel Aviv at the time of the British Airways diversion, but there was no immediate threat to the flight or to Ben Gurion Airport.

She said the return to Britain was the pilot’s decision and that no other flights were diverted.

Governments and airlines have sought to add flights from Israel to evacuate their country’s citizens, while Israeli airlines have sought to fly reservists back into Israel.

Aviation authorities have cautioned airlines flying into Israel but haven’t grounded flights, though some experts have warned that the current airspace situation was risky due to ongoing rocket attacks.

“Safety is always our highest priority and we’ve taken the decision to return our Tel Aviv flight to Heathrow (Airport),” a spokesperson for British Airways said.

British Airways had operated a single daily flight to Tel Aviv before the suspension, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24.

Since the surprise attack by Palestinian militant group Hamas on Israel on Saturday, many international airlines have suspended flights to and from Tel Aviv.

Flydubai said Wednesday it will reduce flights to Tel Aviv from four to two per day.

With British Airways’ suspension, no IAG-owned ICAG.L airlines are now offering flights to Tel Aviv, a spokesperson for the group said.

Flightradar24 showed British Airways flight BA165 had almost reached Tel Aviv before turning back to London.

The US government has been in talks with airlines encouraging them to resume flights, the State Department said Tuesday.

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Wednesday the administration is “encouraging airlines both in the US and international partners to safely find ways to help support” travel between the United States and Israel.”

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