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Lebanon national carrier halves flights amid fears of Israel war

Lebanon’s national carrier Friday said it was cutting more than half of its flights as tensions along the border with Israel prompted more Western countries to warn against travel to Lebanon. Since a Hamas attack on October 7 triggered war between Israel and the Gaza-based militants, the Lebanese-Israel border has seen near daily tit-for-tat incidents involving Lebanon’s Hezbollah or Palestinian groups including Hamas. At least 22 people have been killed on the Lebanese side, including four civilians, sparking fears of a wider escalation. On Friday, Mohammad El-Hout, chairman of Middle East Airlines (MEA), said only eight of the company’s 22 planes would operate as of next week, with the rest of the fleet relocated to other airports. “More than half of the company’s flights will be cancelled,” Hout said during a televised interview from Beirut’s airport, which was knocked out during the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah group. The decision came after changes to the company’s insurance coverage following the October 7 Hamas attack, he said. “Insurance companies began to worry two or three days after” the Hamas attack, he told reporters, explaining war risk coverage was reduced. Other airlines, including Swiss International Air Lines and Germany’s Lufthansa have already temporarily suspended Beirut flights, as Western countries urged their nationals to leave Lebanon. On Friday, Belgium became the latest country to issue a Lebanon travel advisory, following similar moves by the United States, Britain, France, Australia, Canada and other nations. “Due to the unpredictability of the situation, Belgians are asked to leave the country as quickly as possible,” said a message posted on the embassy’s website. Israel has been pounding Gaza since October 7 when Hamas militants stormed into southern Israel killing at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians who were shot, mutilated or burnt to death on the first day of the raid, according to Israeli officials. Since then, more than 4,100 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed in relentless Israeli bombardments, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.

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