A protest in Syria
A protest in Syria Photo by AP
Text size
related tags

An Air France flight from Paris to the Lebanese capital Beirut was diverted to Cyprus as the Syrian conflict spilled over the border, leading to tensions around Beirut airport, French media reports said Thursday.

Air France took the decision to divert the flight late Wednesday after armed Shiite demonstrators blocked the road to Beirut International Airport with burning tires.

The demonstrators were protesting the capture by rebels inside Syria of a member of Lebanon's powerful Shiite al-Mokdad clan. The clan said it had responded by kidnapping more than 20 Syrians and a Turkish national inside Lebanon.

An Air France spokeswoman in Paris told dpa the airline asked to divert flight 562, which was carrying 174 passengers, "after the security situation around the airport became complicated."

"The threat was perceptible, because the men were armed," she said.

Aviation authorities offered to divert the plane to Amman but the plane didn't have enough fuel to reach the Jordanian capital.

Ironically, Air France was forced to make a stopover for fuel in the Syrian capital Damascus  - the scene of intense fighting in recent weeks - before deciding eventually to reroute to Larnaca, Cyprus.

"Luckily there were enough hotel rooms in Larnaca," the spokeswoman said, adding the passengers remained calm throughout.

The flight was set to continue on to Beirut Thursday afternoon at  1:40 GMT.