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Keeping connectivity with Israel ‘crucial’

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Cyprus said Monday it was critical to ensure connectivity to its close neighbour Israel during Hamas militant attacks, with flights in and out continuing to operate.

Minister of Transport Alexis Vafeades said the most important thing is ensuring Cyprus’ connectivity with Israel, noting there were 11 flights to and from Israel on Monday.

“We stay on alert…we are monitoring connectivity.

“We are highly interested in someone being able to travel to Israel and back.

“That has been secured, flights are continuing, and today we have about 11 flights to and from Ben Gurion Airport.

“Therefore, all Cypriots in Israel and all residents of Israel who want to go to Israel can do so through one of these commercial flights,” Vafeades said.

The holiday island has become reliant on Israeli tourists since the Russian market disappeared after the Ukraine war in 2022.

Official tourism figures for August show Israelis were the second largest group of visitors to Cyprus at 14.9%, a yearly increase of 32,804 to 76,130 arrivals, behind Britain at 35.9%.

“We are waiting to see if we need to do anything to provide any assistance”, Vafeades told reporters.

President Nikos Christodoulides has already stated that Nicosia is ready to provide health services.

“This may require transport either by aircraft or ships; we are ready to provide that,” said Vafeades.

He said cruise ships travelling to Israel, which diverted to Cyprus as a precaution, “are to be expected in the first days”.

“We have the infrastructure, and we are able to welcome both tourists and ships”.

The minister said the number of Israelis who have transited through Cyprus is changing and reiterated that the most important thing is to ensure connectivity.

Several international air carriers have suspended flight services with Tel Aviv in light of the Hamas attack on Israel, saying they were waiting for safety conditions to improve before resuming.

Fighters from the Islamist group killed 700 Israelis.

They abducted dozens in Saturday’s attacks, the deadliest incursion since the Yom Kippur war 50 years ago, prompting Israel to retaliate by pounding the Palestinian enclave of Gaza.

Cypriot police have also increased security measures at the Jewish Synagogue in Larnaca, at places of Israeli interest in the resort town, at the Rabbi’s house, and at hotels where Israeli nationals are staying, said the official Cyprus News Agency.

Cyprus has a sizable Israeli community as political ties have blossomed in recent years based on tapping regional energy wealth.

Larnaca-based TUS Airways said it will offer additional flights from Tel Aviv in the coming days to Larnaca and Athens.

The Cyprus News Agency said that Israeli airlines are adding special flights from Larnaca Airport to Tel Aviv to return Israelis who are either in Cyprus or will arrive on the island from other countries.

It said Israelis in various European countries are returning to Cyprus, from where Israeli airlines will transport them home.