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Global airlines cancel flights to Israel amid invasion fears

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

Global airlines are cancelling flights to Israel as clashes between the country’s military and Palestinian militants in Gaza intensify.

Global airlines are cancelling flights to Israel as clashes between the country's military and Palestinian militants in Gaza intensify.

Delta Air Lines (DAL), American Airlines (AAL), United Airlines (UAL), Lufthansa (DLAKF) and British Airways have all cancelled flights following days of Israeli air strikes and Palestinian rocket attacks.

Delta scrapped at least six flights between New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and Tel Aviv on Wednesday and Thursday, according to a spokeswoman for the airline. American Airlines has cancelled flights between JFK and Tel Aviv through Saturday, a spokesperson said.

READ MORE: Israel steps up Gaza offensive, kills senior Hamas figures

United Airlines has also cancelled flights to and from Tel Aviv through Saturday.

British Airways said it had cancelled its flight between London and Tel Aviv scheduled for today.

"Like other airlines, we have cancelled our flight to and from Tel Aviv today. The safety and security of our colleagues and customers is always our top priority, and we continue to monitor the situation closely," the airline, which is owned by IAG (ICAGY), said in a statement.

German airline Lufthansa is cancelling flights to Israel through to today. But it expects to resume flight operations beginning Saturday.

United, Delta and American Airlines have issued travel waivers for passengers traveling to and from Tel Aviv, allowing them to rebook onto other flights.

Reports of rockets fired from Lebanon

Meanwhile, in another potential escalation of the violence, at least three rockets were fired from southern Lebanon toward Israel, an attack that threatened to open a new front in the fighting.

It was unclear who was responsible for the rockets fired from southern Lebanon, according to Lebanese security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. The rockets were launched from the Qlayleh area north of Naqoura, near the border with Israel.

The Israeli military confirmed that the rockets fell into the Mediterranean. South Lebanon is home to Palestinian militant factions as well as the powerful Shiite Hezbollah group.

In another sign fighting could escalate further, Israel's defense minister approved the mobilization of 9000 more reservist troops, and Israel's military spokesman said forces were massing on the border with the Gaza Strip.

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The Defence Ministry said on Thursday that the latest mobilization approved by Defence Minister Benny Gantz was an "exceptional call-up."

The military's chief spokesman, Brigadier General Hidai Zilberman, said forces were "preparing the option of a ground manoeuvre." He told Israeli public television station Kan that tanks, armoured personnel carriers and artillery were being readied "for this option for mobilisation at any given moment."

As the Israeli military and Palestinian militants in Gaza exchange deadly airstrikes and rocket bombardments, rioting and violent clashes have swept through several Israeli cities between Arab and Jewish citizens.

In Bat Yam, south of Jaffa, graphic video on Wednesday night showed a Jewish right-wing mob trying to lynch an Arab driver.

Police say the man was dragged from his car before the assault began.

Video shows about 20 people hitting him with metal objects and kicking him in the head repeatedly. He was taken to hospital where his injuries were described by police as moderate.

In Acre, north of Haifa, a lynching attempt by an Arab mob left a Jewish man critically wounded, according to Israeli police.

A police spokesman said the mob attacked police officers with stones before attacking the victim with stones and iron bars.

"We are very, very worried about this deterioration," Israeli lawmaker Aida Touma-Suleiman in Acre told CNN's Hala Gorani in a live interview on late Wednesday evening local time.

"I am locked in my house, it's happening in front of my house, and there is no way to go out," she said.

"The tear gas is filling the houses, and the situation is insecure. There has been attacks on Arab citizens in different cities today

"I'm really, really worried about this city (Acre). The same is happening in Haifa. The same is happening in Lod.

"There are different attacks on different citizens."

The Israeli-Arab lawmaker went on to say: "I'm not sure that the police is able or even willing to control the situation."

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READ MORE: UN warns Isreal-Palestine conflict could turn into 'full-scale war'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday slammed the violence in Israeli cities as "unacceptable" and said he had ordered the police to adopt emergency powers, to reinforce with border police units, and to impose curfews where necessary.

"Nothing justifies the lynching of Jews by Arabs and nothing justifies the lynching of Arabs by Jews," he said in a statement.

"To the citizens of Israel I say that I do not care if your blood is boiling. You cannot take the law into your own hands," Mr Netanyahu said.

"You cannot grab an ordinary Arab citizen and try to lynch him — just as we cannot watch Arab citizens do this to Jewish citizens."

Militants in Gaza have fired more than 1,000 rockets into Israel since the latest flareup began on Monday afternoon, and Israel has responded with devastating airstrikes in Gaza.

Israel's bombing campaign in Gaza had killed at least 83 people, including 17 children and seven women, the Gaza-based Palestinian Health Ministry reported Thursday. At least 487 people had sustained various injuries, the ministry said.

Seven Israelis had been killed and more than 200 been injured since Monday, the Israeli military said on Wednesday.

A six-year-old boy was killed Wednesday when a rocket fired from Gaza struck a residential building in Sderot, according to an emergency responder.

READ MORE: Explained: What led to the recent Israel-Gaza violence

Decades of coexistence 'trampled'

Fuelled by controversy over planned evictions of Palestinian families in Jerusalem, and restrictions at a popular East Jerusalem meeting point as Ramadan began, conflict between Israelis and Palestinians boiled over this week, escalating rapidly into one of the worst rounds of violence between the two sides in the last several years.

"We're escalating towards a full-scale war. Leaders on all sides have to take the responsibility of de-escalation," UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland said on Wednesday.

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Fury over the situation has fuelled fierce protests in the central Israeli city of Lod, where Israeli police reported on Wednesday that people were throwing rocks at passing cars and blocking roads into the early hours.

The mayor of Lod, Yair Revivo, said decades of coexistence had been "trampled."

He said Arab-Israeli rioters had been "burning synagogues, Talmud Torah, dozens of vehicles, burning garbage containers, destroying Israeli flags and worse, lowering the Israeli flag and hoisting the Palestinian flag, on a night of riots that injured policemen and residents who found themselves besieged."

An Arab-Israeli resident of Lod, Wael Essawi, told CNN that a mosque was stormed by Israeli police and Jewish residents during prayers on Tuesday night before tear gas was fired and cars were set ablaze.

"We couldn't do anything but we opened the windows so we can breathe... it was very intense," Essawi said.

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'Terrified screams'

Another resident, Khaled Zabarqah, said that following a Palestinian demonstration on Monday against Israeli policies in Jerusalem, thousands were hit with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets before Israelis started throwing stones and beating the group.

"My 15-year-old daughter was woken up by the sound of stones being thrown at her bedroom window, I was then woken up by her terrified screams," Zabarqah said.

"There was nothing we could do but protect and defend ourselves with any tools we have, it's either we defend ourselves or we get killed."

On Tuesday, a 25-year-old Arab-Israeli man was shot and killed in the city by a 34-year-old Jewish man, who fired on protesters after they targeted him with rocks, according to police.

Police arrested two suspects in connection with another shooting in Lod.

A CNN team driving through the city early Wednesday saw that some of the roads were strewn with rocks.

Burnt-out cars were also visible by the side of the road following a night of unrest in the city.

Source: 9News

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