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Israel opens additional airport for international flights

Posted on Jul 23 2014 | IANS

Jerusalem, July 23 : Israel is opening a second international airport after major airlines stopped flights when a rocket fired from Gaza landed near Tel Aviv's international airport, Transport Minister Israel Katz said Wednesday.

Speaking at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Katz said that he has instructed the Israel Airports Authority to "immediately open" the southern Uvda airport for international flights, Xinhua reported.

Uvda is located some 40 km north of the city of Eilat in northern Israel.

Katz said that Uvda airport will start operating at noon, adding that all international airlines have been informed.

Uvda operates mainly domestic flights, but has been used for a few European flights also.

The rural airport is located away from Israel's tourism centres of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which makes it unfavourable for international landings.

Earlier, the US Federal Aviation Administration asked American airlines to suspend all flights for at least 24 hours to and from Ben Gurion International Airport "due to the potentially hazardous situation created by the armed conflict in Israel and Gaza".

Major European and Canadian airlines have also suspended their flights to Israel.

According to the airport authorities, some 80 flights were cancelled since Tuesday evening.

However, Israel's flag air carrier El Al Airlines said that its "flights will continue as scheduled".

El Al has been known for continuing its flights even in war time.

During the 1991 Gulf War, El Al was the only airline that did not suspend its operations in Israel.

Hamas militants had previously said that they fired long-range M75 rockets at the airport but they were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile defence system.

Ben Gurion International Airport is Israel's main gateway for the rest of the world.

During the first six months of 2014, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported a record 1.5 million visitors to Israel, though that figure is likely to fall for the rest of the year due to security concerns.

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