International airlines cancel all flights to Israel as conflict with Palestine escalates

As the conflict between Israel and Palestine continues to escalate international airlines have cancelled flights to the state of Israel amid rising panic over the violence.

On Thursday night, dozens of rockets were fired from Gaza towards the southern Israeli coastal cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon, in the vicinity of Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport.

US airline United, which operates 18 weekly flights to Israel, announced it was suspending its operations.

Delta and American Airlines also confirmed they would suspend services between New York and Tel Aviv.

British Airways also cancelled its flights to Tel Aviv on Thursday and Virgin Atlantic stopped its flights on Thursday and Friday. Both airlines said they were monitoring the situation closely.

A number of other international carriers have also either cancelled or suspended flights, including Dutch airline KLM, Germany’s Lufthansa, Russian carrier Aeroflot, Spanish airline Iberia and Polish airline LOT.

LOT’s spokesman Krzysztof Moczulski said in a statement to AFP, “I suppose that we will not be flying there in the coming days”.

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Rockets launched towards Israel from the Gaza Strip and response from the Israeli missile defence system. Picture: Fatima Shbair/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Israeli and Palestinian death toll climbs

It comes as Israel bombarded Gaza with artillery and air strikes on Friday in response to a new barrage of rocket fire from Hamas.

At least 103 people have been killed since Monday, including 27 children, and more than 580 wounded, the health ministry in Gaza said.

Heavy bombardments have brought down entire tower blocks.

Inside Israel, seven people have been killed since Monday, including one six-year-old, after a rocket struck a family home.

But the Israel Defence Force stopped short of a ground offensive in the conflict that has now claimed more than 100 Palestinian lives.

As the violence intensified, Israel said in a tweet it was carrying out an attack “in the Gaza Strip” although it later clarified there were no boots on the ground.

Israeli security forces have also been scrambled to the border to contain deadly riots in the streets, and projectiles have been fired on Israel from Lebanon.

The United Nations said the Security Council would meet on Sunday to address the conflict, while the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington was “deeply concerned about the violence in the streets of Israel”.

“We believe that Israelis and Palestinians deserve equal measures of freedom, security, dignity and prosperity,” Blinken said.

Mourners at the funeral of first sergeant Omer Tabib killed in southern Israel. Picture: Amir Levy/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Rubble of a residential building destroyed by an Israeli air strike on May 13. Picture: Fatima Shbair/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

The Israeli army clarified early Friday that its troops had not entered the Gaza Strip as it had earlier stated, blaming an “internal communication” problem for the confusion.

There were intense artillery exchanges Thursday night, and AFP reporters saw Israeli troops assembling at the security barrier.

Balls of flames rose high into the sky after strikes smashed into densely packed Gaza.

John Conricus, an Israeli army spokesman, said the country was “prepared, and (would) continue to prepare for various scenarios”, describing a ground offensive as “one scenario”.

In Gaza, AFP photographers said people were evacuating their homes in the northeastern part of the enclave ahead of possible Israeli attacks, with Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, warning of a “heavy response” to a possible ground incursion.

With the conflict showing no signs of easing, Israel has been rocked by an unprecedented wave of mob violence, in which both Arabs and Jews have been savagely beaten and police stations attacked.

Defence Minister Benny Gantz ordered a “massive reinforcement” to suppress the internal unrest.

The heavy bombardments coincided with the start of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, and saw the faithful pray at mosques and amid the rubble of Gaza’s collapsed buildings.

Israel’s air force launched multiple air strikes, targeting locations linked to Hamas, with the air force saying jets had struck a “military compound” of the group’s “intelligence headquarters”.

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