The Palestinian Islamic Resistance movement, Hamas, has targeted Israel's Ramon Airport near the Red Sea resort city of Eilat in the southern part of the Israeli occupied territories, suspending operations there.
Abu Ubaida, a spokesman for the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing, told Arabic-language al-Aqsa TV on Thursday afternoon that an indigenous Ayyash 250 missile was launched towards the airport, stressing that his group’s missiles can reach any target in the Occupied Territories, the Palestinian Arabic-language Safa news agency reported.
“In the name of God and by order of Chief of Staff of al-Qassam Brigades, Abu Khaled Muhammad al-Deif, an Ayyash missile was fired towards Ramon Airport – located about 220 kilometers (136 miles) south of the Gaza Strip – in southern [occupied] Palestine. The missile weighs 250 kilograms (550 pounds), and has a range of more than 250 kilometers as well as a high destructive force,” he said.
The al-Qassam Brigades spokesman said the missile launch was part of the resistance front’s response to the assassination of heroic Palestinian leaders and engineers in vicious Israeli bombardments and airstrikes.
“We have put Ayyash 250 [missile] into service, and are telling the enemy (Israel): ‘Here is your airport. Every point from north of Palestine to its south is within the range of our missiles’,” Abu Ubaida highlighted.
He added, “This is the next deterrent weapon flying in the skies of Palestine towards every target that we, with the help of God, define and decide to hit.”
The al-Qassam Brigades spokesman finally called upon international airlines to immediately halt their flights to any airport within the Occupied Territories.
The Ayyash 250 missile is named after Yahya Ayyash, one of Hamas’s leading commanders before he was assassinated by Israel in 1996.
Al-Qassam Brigades launch drone strikes against targets inside Israel
Al-Qassam Brigades announced in a separate statement that its fighters had struck Israeli military build-ups on the borders of the Gaza Strip on Thursday, using domestically-developed Shehab unmanned aerial vehicles.
The statement added that the Palestinian resistance fighters' drones had targeted an Israeli offshore gas platform the previous day.
“These operations are in response to the ongoing Zionist aggression against our people in the Gaza Strip, as well as the assassination of a group of Qassam leaders and engineers,” the statement also read.
Al-Qassam Brigades vowed to press ahead with its retaliatory attacks as long as the Israeli regime continues its acts of aggression.
Israeli air officials said earlier on Thursday that incoming passenger flights would be diverted from Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv to Ramon Airport outside Eilat in the south.
Under the new plan, passengers will disembark at Ramon, which opened in 2019. The empty planes will then fly to Ben Gurion to take on new passengers, and then depart from Ben Gurion to their destinations abroad.
The development came as US airlines began canceling flights to Israel due to retaliatory rocket attacks by Palestinian resistance fighters amid rising tensions in the occupied territories.
United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Airlines all said they were canceling flights to Tel Aviv, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
European airlines cancel Tel Aviv flights amid escalating conflict
Moreover, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Iberia all canceled flights to Tel Aviv as European carriers joined US airlines in avoiding flying to the Occupied Territories amid an escalating conflict there.
“The safety and security of our colleagues and customers is always our top priority, and we continue to monitor the situation closely,” British Airways said after canceling its flights to and from Tel Aviv on Thursday.
According to Reuters, UK-based Virgin Atlantic cancelled a flight there late on Wednesday, saying that it was reviewing whether to operate its Thursday evening flight.
Spanish airline Iberia also cancelled its flight to Tel Aviv from Madrid on Thursday and back on Friday, a spokeswoman said, while Wizz Air delayed its Thursday flight from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv until Friday.
Emirati carrier Flydubai said it was continuing to operate daily flights from Dubai to Tel Aviv. The airline was scheduled to operate three flights on Thursday, its website showed, while a fourth night time flight was cancelled.
United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines on Wednesday all cancelled flights between the United States and Tel Aviv.
Lufthansa suspends flights to Tel Aviv
German airline Lufthansa also said it was suspending all flights to Tel Aviv through Friday, May 14.
“Lufthansa is closely monitoring the current situation in Israel and continues to maintain a close exchange with the authorities, security service providers and our own staff on the ground,” a statement from the company read.
Lufthansa said it expected flights to Israel to resume on Saturday, May 15.
Israel’s military has reportedly launched more than 1,000 rockets carried out more than 350 air raids on the Gaza Strip since Monday.
Resistance groups have launched more than 1,600 rockets from the crowded coastal enclave in the worst escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in years.
Since the Israeli offensive began late on Monday, Gaza’s health ministry says at least 87 people, including 18 children and eight women, have been killed. More than 480 others have been wounded.
Hamas confirmed that its Gaza City commander, Bassem Issa, was killed in an Israeli air attack along with other senior members of the group on Wednesday.
“The confrontation with the enemy is open-ended,” Hamas political bureau chief, Ismail Haniyeh, highlighted.