Astral Aviation, Kenya’s privately owned cargo airline, has cancelled its flights to Tel Aviv due to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Unfortunately, this move will have a significant impact on farmers and suppliers who rely on these flights for their weekly 25 tonnes of goods to Israel.

Sanjeev Gadhia, the CEO of the airline, announced the cancellation of the upcoming flight and its postponement to a later date.

 “We have cancelled Monday’s flight, and we will recommence the following week,” Mr Gadhia told Business Day Africa.

The airline had already received consignments in preparation for its upcoming flight on Monday, but due to the uncertainty caused by the conflict, it will be returning these goods to the suppliers.

The perishable nature of the cargo, including pineapples and fresh fish, makes it impossible to store for an extended period in cold storage.

Astral Aviation initiated operations on this route in June of this year, offering a once-a-week service to Israel.

Astral Aviation CEO is joined by officials from Israel Embassy in Nairobi and government officials during the launch of direct flights to Tel-Aviv in June. Image: courtesy.
Astral Aviation CEO is joined by officials from Israel Embassy in Nairobi and KAA management during the launch of direct flights to Tel-Aviv in June. Image: courtesy.

However, in the wake of a surprise attack launched by Palestinians, which involved thousands of rockets fired from Gaza into nearby Israeli towns during a Jewish holiday, the situation became increasingly volatile. Retaliatory attacks from Tel Aviv only escalated the tensions.

This cancellation is a significant setback for suppliers who now face the challenge of securing the local market for these highly perishable commodities before they go to waste.

According to CNN reports, as of Saturday afternoon, about 16 percent of flights were canceled, and 23 percent were delayed to Ben Gurion International Airport, Israel’s international hub located just outside of Tel Aviv.

Some flights bound for Israel were even diverted to airports around the world, exemplified by United Airlines flight 954, which departed from San Francisco International Airport and diverted over Greenland approximately seven hours into its more than 13-hour journey, eventually returning to San Francisco.

The African Union has expressed grave concerns regarding the latest outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian violence, emphasising its severe consequences for civilian lives and regional peace.

AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat stated, “Denial of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people, particularly that of an independent and sovereign State, is the main cause of the permanent Israeli-Palestinian tension,” in a strongly-worded statement.

In contrast to the AU’s stance, Kenya’s President William Ruto condemned Palestine for the attacks, expressing solidarity with Israel and denouncing terrorism.

President Ruto extended his deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of all the victims, reflecting the complex and sensitive nature of the international response to the conflict.