'Israelis don't want to fly to South Africa'

El Al nixing flights to South Africa amid fall in demand, ICJ genocide charge

National carrier planning to end the only direct flights from Tel Aviv to Johannesburg from April 1 as ties between the countries continue to deteriorate

File: El Al airplanes on the tarmac at Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport, October 4, 2022. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
File: El Al airplanes on the tarmac at Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport, October 4, 2022. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Flag carrier El Al said Friday it is planning to cancel its Tel Aviv to Johannesburg route from April 1, given a steep drop in demand amid the war with Hamas and after South Africa accused Israel of genocide at the World Court.

The cancelation of the bi-weekly flight will mean that there are no direct flights from Israel to South Africa and is a further blow to the rapidly deteriorating ties between the two countries amid Pretoria’s claim that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza, a charge that Jerusalem vehemently denies.

“Israelis don’t want to fly to South Africa,” said an El Al spokesperson. “They are cancelling flights and planes are pretty empty… We understand it’s the situation because it was different before.”

“The fact that the Israelis don’t want to go to South Africa but do want to go to other places helps us decide that we’re pausing that route,” she said.

El Al said once it had stopped flying to Johannesburg it would shift the widebody aircraft it uses on the route to expand current destinations to North America and Bangkok and Tokyo in Asia while examining new routes.

Air travel to and from Israel plunged with the outbreak of the war on October 7, when some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from Gaza by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing over 240 hostages. The vast majority of those killed as gunmen seized border communities were civilians, many amid horrific acts of brutality by the terrorists.

Pro-Palestinian supporters protest against Israel outside parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, November 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Nardus Engelbrecht)

Vowing to destroy the terror group, Israel launched a wide-scale military campaign in Gaza, which the Hamas-run health ministry says has killed over 25,000 people so far. These figures cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of the terror groups’ own rocket misfires.

Israel has rejected South Africa’s accusations of genocide as baseless and claims Pretoria is acting as an emissary of Hamas, which seeks to eliminate the Jewish state. It says the Israel Defense Forces targets Hamas terrorists — not Palestinian civilians — but that civilian casualties in the fighting are unavoidable as terrorists operate from within the population.

Dozens of flights to and from Tel Aviv were canceled by major airlines in the wake of the October 7 attacks, though many resumed in December and January as rocket attacks from Gaza on the center of Israel diminished.

File: Passengers at the Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, on December 26, 2023. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

El Al also paused flying over Oman on its flights to southeast Asia in October and asked officials in Muscat to approve a new route over the country, presumably one that passes farther away from neighboring Iran.

Israel recalled its Ambassador to South Africa Eli Belotserkovsky for consultations in November, a month after war broke out, following a series of highly antagonistic comments and steps by the government in Pretoria over Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

South Africa had already recalled its own ambassador and diplomatic staff from Israel in the wake of the war and said it was considering shutting down the Israeli embassy in Pretoria entirely.

Pretoria has long been an ardent supporter of the Palestinians, and the ANC has sought to link its struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa to the demands of the Palestinians for an independent state.

 

 

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