Tuesday, January 15, 2013

■ KENYA: Israel keen to resume Tel Aviv - Nairobi flights following improvements in Kenyan airport security.

KenyaFollowing improvements in security measures in place at the country's airports, Israel is considering the resumption of direct flights to Kenya before the end of the year says the country's Ambassador to Kenya, Gil Haskel. 

Speaking at a press conference in Nairobi on Tuesday, Haskel said:
I very much hope to be able to declare that 2013 will be the year when we resume direct flights between Nairobi and Tel Aviv,” Haskel said.

Arkia 757 4X-BAW
Arkia 757 4X-BAW (JLehle)
Israel suspended flights to Kenya following the 2002 Mombasa terrorist attacks in which two shoulder-launched Strela 2 (SA-7) surface-to-air missiles were fired at an Arkia Israeli-Airlines (IZ) Boeing 757 (MSN 30179 | 4X-BAW) as it took off from Mombasa's Moi International Airport. Luckily, the two SAMs missed the departing aircraft. 

About 20 minutes later, three suicide bombers linked to Al Qaeda, detonated an SUV in the lobby of the Israeli-owned beachfront Paradise Hotel, killing three Israelis, ten Kenyans, and injuring 80.

A similar incident was averted 6 months later when El Al (LY) suspended flights to Nairobi on 17 May 2003 on the advice of the Israeli security services. Two days earlier Britain suspended all British-registered flights to Kenya because of a "specific threat" to British airlines.

The ambassador announced on Tuesday that Israel is now satisfied with the security arrangements put in place by the Kenyan government.
There were very severe security threats on Israeli flights landing here in Kenya and obviously if we want to resume them we believe that these threats are no longer there,” he said. “We will work with the Kenyan Government to ensure these threats are no longer there and we hope to see Israeli and Kenyan planes in the sky going to and from Tel Aviv,” Haskel concluded.

Haskel did not mention any airlines specifically in his address.

In 2006, a similar declaration by then Israeli ambassador Emmanuel Seri was made in which Israeli airline El Al (LY) was set to resume direct flights to Kenya, though nothing ever came of it.