Delta Air Lines Inc. has postponed its daily flight from Atlanta to Tel Aviv as Israel pummeled Gaza with airstrikes and threatened a ground invasion in retaliation for surprise attacks by Hamas fighters that killed 900 Israelis Saturday morning.
Israeli officials told citizens to prepare for a long war as the country seeks to root out Hamas, the U.S.-designated terror group that controls the Gaza Strip and struck Israel with a brutal assault that some are calling the country’s 9/11. The death toll on the Israeli side has risen to 1,200.
Bursting through the border fence hemming in the blockaded Palestinian territory, Hamas fighters reportedly killed Israelis in their homes, slaughtered more than 250 at a music festival and took more than 150 hostages, in addition to striking military targets.
Israel’s U.S. and European allies responded with messages condemning Hamas, offering condolences for Israel and pledging to support its counteroffensive.
On Sunday, Israel began what it called an “all-out siege,” cutting off food, water and fuel supplies to Gaza and hitting Hamas targets with near-constant air strikes in the four days since the attacks. Some 1,000 Palestinians had been killed by Wednesday, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
The conflict forced flight cancellations by major U.S. airlines, leaving departing passengers scrambling for alternative arrangements. Delta has a codeshare partnership with Israel’s El Al Airlines, which is operating flights out of Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport along with Turkish Airlines and Emirates.
Delta’s flight, relaunched in March after 12 years without nonstop service from Atlanta, was a bright spot in its ties with the Southeast U.S., a growing destination for Israeli tech and manufacturing investment.
The country also enjoys strong bipartisan political support including from an Israel caucus within the Georgia legislature.
Gov. Brian Kemp traveled to Israel in June, meeting with top officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog on a multifaceted mission designed to bolster business and security ties.
Georgia leaders including Mr. Kemp, U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff and many others have issued statements condemning the Hamas attacks, and Jewish community groups in Atlanta held a vigil in support of Israel Tuesday night in Sandy Springs with almost 4,000 in attendance.
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The U.S. has updated its travel warning for Israel and Delta continues to issue updated guidance for affected passengers.
The airline said most recently that Israel flights would be postponed at least through the end of October.