Despite the worry about the persistent rocket attacks launched from the Gaza strip into Israel, New York-bound flight 469 was grounded due to wing flap malfunction rather than any external threat.
The plane only made it out over the Mediterranean Sea before the crew deemed the wing flaps an issue for landing, as they failed to retract on takeoff two hours earlier. The plane held a constant pattern over the Mediterranean, dumping fuel until they landed. Emergency services lined the runway when the plane landed.
Passengers described the mood not as tense or worried, but rather one of frustration from not being able to retract the wing flaps.
The flight took off from Ben Gurion Airport at 12:30 AM local time (5:30 PM EST) on Saturday, and was set to land at JFK International Airport in New York around 4:30 AM EST on Sunday. Passengers were told that they would possibly have to wait up to 20 hours until they could be booked for a new flight.
Before the flight even took off, air raid sirens perforated the usual hullaballoo of airport comings-and-goings, though no rocket attacks from the Palestinian territories reached the airport. Hamas has stated that Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv is one of their prime targets, and has warned carriers of international flights to avoid the airport, though no rockets have successfully hit the site.
No flights have been canceled so far due to rocket attacks.
The grounding of the flight fits into the consistent tension felt in the recent increase in violence between Hamas and Israel. Israel has amassed tanks and ground forces on the Gaza border in preparation for a ground invasion, a move that is not unprecedented. It remains to be seen if Israel will carry out the invasion, which could lead to an exceedingly high civilian death toll.
The recent spate of violence has resulted from the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers by militants, though none have stepped forward to claim responsibility for the murders. Several Israeli extremists kidnapped and murdered a Palestinian teenager in retaliation, burning his body. A Facebook group supporting the extremist action against the Palestinians cropped up, garnering several thousand 'likes' before Facebook removed the page.
Over 100 Palestinian civilians have been killed in the recent exchange of rocket fire.
This article is copyrighted by Travelers Today, the travel news leader