Israel Shuts Down All International Air Traffic for Five Hours

Ben Gurion International Airport conducts scheduled maintenance, rendering Israeli skies off limits to international travelers.

Israel was completely closed off to international air traffic, as Ben Gurion International Airport conducted necessary maintenance on Friday night.

Passengers at Ben-Gurion Airport. David Bachar

Between the hours of 6:30 PM and 11:30 PM there were no takeoffs or landings at Israel's main airport. The lack of alternative airports therefore rendered Israeli skies off limits to international travelers.

For the past day the airport has had one functioning runway, due to necessary improvements being made to other runways. The improvements are meant to increase safety at Ben Gurion.

The decision to perform the maintenance work on Friday evening is undoubtedly related to the relatively sparse air traffic on Shabbat.

The lack of an alternative airport also means that Israel will be shut off to emergency landings in the coming hours.

Earlier this year, the Civil Aviation Authority disqualified Ovda Airport in southern Israel from serving as an alternative landing site to Ben Gurion due to security concerns.

Officials at the Israel Airports Authority told Haaretz that notice was given to international airlines last night regarding the scheduled maintenance.