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Aviation

German airlines resume flights to Tel Aviv

Lufthansa and Air Berlin have announced that they are resuming flights to Israel. The German carriers had suspended service earlier in the week after a rocket fired by Islamist militants struck near Tel Aviv's airport.

The Lufthansa Group announced late on Friday that it would begin resuming service to Israel's international hub Saturday.

"On the basis of the most up-to-date information we have available and our own assessment of the local security situation, the airlines of the Lufthansa Group will resume their flights from and to Ben Gurion International Airport," a statement said.

Apart from Germany's flag carrier, Lufthansa, the group also operates Germanwings, Austrian Airlines and Swiss.

The statement also noted that it would take a few days to get the airlines' complete schedule of flights up and running. It advised passengers to consult the websites of the individual airlines for more information. The Lufthansa Group normally operates between seven and 10 flights to Tel Aviv daily, from Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich, Zurich and Vienna.

Air Berlin also announced that it planned to resume service to Tel Aviv beginning Saturday.

The German airlines were among many international airlines, including many from other European Union countries, the United States and Canada, which stopped flying into Tel Aviv after a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck a building located around 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from Ben Gurion International on Tuesday.

The decision to suspend flights to Tel Aviv was sharply critzicized by Israel and left scores of passengers stranded either at Tel Aviv or at airports abroad.

Both the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lifted bans on their airlines flying into Tel Aviv on Thursday and some resumed service to the Israeli city shortly afterward.

Pilots' association voices concern

Despite the fact that the German airlines waited an extra two days before deciding to resume service, Cockpit - the association that represents Lufthansa pilots - sharply criticized the move.

"We can't understand the decision with regard to safety," Cockpit's spokesman, Jörg Handweg told the online edition of the Handelsblatt business daily.

"According to our information, nothing at all has changed in the past few days with regard to the level of threat," he added.

In its statement lifting the ban on flying into Tel Aviv, the EASA stressed the need to continue to "closely monitor risks to the safety of international civil flights."

pfd/mkg (AFP, dpa)

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