Israeli Airlines Rescuing Tourists Stranded in Turkey

Plan is to fly Israelis back via Athens because Turkey has yet to lift ban on flights to Israel despite European Agency dropping its travel warning.

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An undated company photo of an EL AL Boeing 777.Credit: EL AL, via Bloomberg News

Israeli airlines are organizing a rescue Thursday night of 800 tourists stranded in Turkey after their flights back to Israel were canceled earlier this week.

An estimated 2,500 Israeli tourists are stuck in Turkey after the landing of a rocket fired by Hamas landed in Yehud, prompting most foreign airlines to cancel flights to and from Israel for nearly two days.

El Al and Arkia Airlines have chartered four special flights at the behest of the Israeli Transportation Ministry. If talks with Turkish airliners can be wrapped up, El Al will bring back most of the 800 passengers on three flights and Arkia will return the rest late Thursday night. Turkey is preventing their return because there is still a freeze on Turkish airlines carrying passengers to Israel, even though the European Aviation Safety Agency lifted its recommendation on Thursday for airlines to stop flights to Tel Aviv due to the conflict.

The plan is for the Israelis to be flown from Istanbul to Athens by local airlines and from Athens on the Israeli planes. The Transportation Ministry is reportedly financing the operation.

A similar attempt to bring the Israeli tourists out of Turkey and back to Israel via a third location failed on Wednesday night.

Holidaymakers resting at a beach in the resort town of Bodrum, Turkey, July 14, 2014Credit: Reuters