United Airlines flight from Newark to Tel Aviv, Israel scheduled to depart at 4:25 pm on Saturday afternoon has been delayed by more than 12 hours after the pilots allegedly “refused” to fly the plane because Tel Aviv was coming under rocket fire by Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
In a video posted to Twitter, a member of ground staff at Newark Liberty Airport tells passengers on the delayed flight that the plane wouldn’t be leaving as scheduled because “the pilots are refusing to take the flight at this time”.
Other reports claim United Airlines initially cited a curfew in the Tel Aviv Yafo region for the flight delay, although local authorities never imposed a curfew after a brief period in which Israel’s most populous city came under rocket fire on Saturday afternoon.
United Airlines flight UA84 is now not expected to depart until 7 am on Sunday at the earliest.
Over the last few days, Israel has seen volley upon volley of rocket attacks from Gaza by Islamic Jihad militants but most of the projectiles are relatively short range and only pose a threat to Southern regions such as Sderot.
In a major escalation of the attacks, some rockets were fired at Tel Aviv and videos shared on social media showed beachgoers along Tel Aviv’s sprawling sea front fleeing for safety after air raid sirens suddenly sounded.
Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system has intercepted the vast majority of rockets that have posed a danger to Israel and so far in this latest conflict, airlines have continued to operate flights to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport without disruption.
In May 2021, international airlines, including the likes of United and Delta, nixed Israel services after the Iran-backed Hamas group fired sophisticated rockets at Ben Gurion Airport.
The disruption lasted for more than a week and only resumed after Israel reached a ceasefire deal with Hamas.
On Sunday, air raid sirens were heard close to Jerusalem, while tensions were raised even further after a group of Israeli settlers were given the green light to ascend to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
The U.S. State Department has issued a security alert for Israel, saying U.S. citizens should “remain vigilant and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness”. Despite the latest warning, the State Department does not advise against travel to Israel.