Israel opens second airport after airlines cancel flights

Uvda airport near Eilat will serve as an international terminal while flights to Ben Gurion are cancelled (Photo: Henrik Sendelbach)

Uvda airport near Eilat will serve as an international terminal while flights to Ben Gurion are cancelled (Photo: Henrik Sendelbach)

Israel’s Transport Minister Israel Katz has ordered the immediate opening of a second airport near Eilat after US and European airlines banned flights to Israel over safety fears.

Uvda airport, just north of Eilat, has been ready to receive incoming international flights since midday Israel time in a bid to ease the concerns of airlines around the world.

The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) issued a blanket ban on all US airlines flying to Israel on Tuesday, with several European airlines including Lufthansa, Italy’s Alitalia and Air France following suit, after Hamas rockets landed near Ben Gurion International airport.

Mr Katz said that the FAA ban was unreasonable and the suspension of air travel to Tel Aviv had “handed terror a prize.”

The FAA is due to make a decision on whether to extend the ban beyond 24 hours later on Wednesday.

The FAA’s equivalent in Europe, the European Aviation Safety Agency said that while the situation was potentially hazardous, it was up to national aviation authorities to decide whether or not their airlines should fly to Israel.

Easy Jet has also cancelled all flights to Israel for Wednesday but said it will "review its operations to and from Israel on a day-by-day basis". British airways is continuing normal service to Tel Aviv.

The Israeli government is trying to find ways to return some 4,000 Israelis who have been stuck in Istanbul after airlines turned back and refused to fly into Ben Gurion.

But it is thought that the Turkish authorities are also unwilling to let flights land at the Uvda airport which is located near the border with Egypt’s Sinai desert.

Last updated: 6:54pm, July 23 2014