A Defense Ministry decision to restrict Israel’s airspace Tuesday forced planes to wait longer than normal between takeoffs, causing a cascade of delays at Ben-Gurion Airport.
The measure was put in place Monday night and again on Tuesday afternoon, and was expected to last until evening, the ministry said.
“Due to routine scheduled activities by the Defense Ministry, during the afternoon and evening there will possibly be occasional limitations on movement in Israeli airspace,” the ministry said in a statement. “The activities have been coordinated with all of the appropriate authorities.”
The ministry did not elaborate on the nature of the “routine scheduled activities.”
The announcement came as the airplane of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi touched down in Israel for a three-day visit.
According to Channel 2 news, the restriction forced a larger gap between takeoffs.
Some 13 flights were delayed or canceled at the airport as of 5 p.m. Tuesday.
On Monday the ministry reportedly ordered the Israel Airports Authority to impose intermittent closures of the airspace above the airport, following what some Hebrew media described as a “security incident.”
As a result of the order, which was said to be in effect for three hours, a large number of flights were delayed and passengers were advised to check their departure times before arriving at the airport.
No details of the reason behind the unusual measure were given. Channel 10 reported that an expected event that led to the closure order did not end up taking place.
The IAA later denied that there was any closure of the airspace.
“The skies are not closed. There is not and there was not a security incident at Ben Gurion International Airport. The skies are open and were not closed for even a minute,” it said.
However, the departure board at the airport showed several delayed flights.
The delays further contributed to already large crowds at the airport, which traditionally pick up during the summer travel season.
The last known restriction on flights at Ben Gurion occurred in November 2015, when runways at the airport were briefly closed due to a heavy sandstorm.
Earlier Monday, thousands of Israelis arriving at Ben Gurion Airport were greeted by excessively long lines, with those lacking Israeli biometric passports forced to wait in lines stretching past the inspection hall up toward the arrival gates.