Lebanon’s national carrier, Middle East Airlines (MEA), has announced that it will be cutting more than half of its flights due to escalating tensions along the border with Israel. The decision comes as several Western countries issue travel warnings for Lebanon. MEA Chairman Mohammed El-Hout revealed that only eight out of the company’s 22 planes will be operational starting next week, with the rest being relocated to other airports.
Insurance coverage changes following the recent Hamas attack on Israel have prompted concerns from insurance companies, leading to a reduction in war risk coverage. El-Hout stated that MEA will release a dynamic flight schedule to ensure that most passengers can reach their destinations. In the meantime, 10 aircraft will temporarily move to other countries such as Cyprus, Turkey, and Qatar.
El-Hout emphasized the importance of maintaining communication with the rest of the world through Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport. He warned that if MEA were to stop operating, other airlines might follow suit and suspend their flights to Lebanon. Despite the potential losses, El-Hout expressed confidence in the airline’s ability to overcome these challenges and support its employees.
MEA is not the only airline affected by the situation in Lebanon. Swiss International Airlines and Germany’s Lufthansa have also temporarily suspended their Beirut flights, while Saudia has halted flights to Lebanon until the end of the month. Embassies of foreign and Arab countries continue to advise their nationals against remaining in or traveling to Lebanon.
Belgium recently joined the list of countries issuing travel advisories for Lebanon, urging its citizens to leave the country as quickly as possible due to the unpredictability of the situation. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visited Beirut to discuss the implications of the conflict in the Gaza Strip for Europe’s security. Baerbock emphasized Germany’s collaboration with the G7, EU, and regional partners to ensure aid can flow into Gaza.
Meanwhile, a US delegation met with Lebanese Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun to discuss developments along the southern Lebanese border and the challenges faced by Lebanon’s military. Hezbollah has been targeting Israeli outposts, prompting additional mobile military operations in the area. The Israeli Defense Forces have retaliated by targeting Hezbollah’s military infrastructure.
The situation has also resulted in casualties. The Lebanese Armed Forces reported that the IDF killed a civilian member of a journalist team covering the security developments in the border region. The team was cornered for five hours and directly targeted with machine guns before being rescued by UNIFIL forces.
In an unprecedented move, the armed wing of Hamas in Lebanon, Al-Qassam Brigades, claimed responsibility for launching 30 guided missiles from southern Lebanon towards Israeli settlements. In response, the IDF announced plans to evacuate the northern city of Kiryat Shmona near the Lebanese border.
Protests condemning Israeli actions against Palestinians have taken place in Beirut and other regions, with worshippers gathering in front of mosques. The situation remains tense, and the conflict between Hamas and Israel continues to impact Lebanon’s aviation industry and overall security.
As tensions persist, it is crucial for travelers to stay informed about travel advisories and make necessary adjustments to their plans. MEA’s decision to reduce flights reflects the need to prioritize passenger safety amidst the evolving situation. Passengers are advised to check with their airlines for any changes or updates to their travel itineraries.