Germany’s Lufthansa suspends flights to and from Tehran amid Middle East conflict

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Germany’s Lufthansa said on Wednesday it suspended flights to Tehran because of the situation in the Middle East, where the region is on alert for possible Iranian retaliation over a suspected Israeli air strike on Iran’s embassy in Syria.

An Iranian news agency briefly stoked tensions further when it published an Arabic report on social media platform X saying all airspace over Tehran had been closed for military drills. The agency then removed the report and denied it had issued such news.

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Countries in the region and the United States have been on high alert and preparing for a possible attack by Iran since April 1 when Israeli warplanes were suspected of bombing the Iranian embassy compound in Syria.

Lufthansa said it suspended flights to and from Tehran from April 6 until probably April 11.

“We are constantly monitoring the situation in the Middle East and are in close contact with the authorities. The safety of our guests and crew members is Lufthansa’s top priority,” a spokesperson for the company told Reuters.

There was no immediate word from other international airlines that fly to Tehran.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that Israel “must be punished and it shall be” for the Damascus strike that killed seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps members.

Among them was Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior commander in the Quds Force, an elite overseas unit of the Revolutionary Guards.

Israel, which launched a war in the Gaza Strip six months ago against Iran-backed Hamas, has not confirmed it was behind the strike on Damascus, but the Pentagon has said it was.

Could strikes be imminent?

In an apparent response to Khamenei, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said on Wednesday that Israel will respond if Iran attacks Israel from its own soil.

The United States and its allies believe major missile or drone strikes by Iran or its proxies against military and government targets in Israel are imminent, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday evening, citing US and Israeli security sources.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards shot down a Ukraine International Airlines passenger flight on Jan. 8, 2020 shortly after it took off from Tehran Airport at a time of heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington over the killing of a top Iranian commander in a US drone strike at Baghdad airport.

Later, Tehran said that the downing of the Ukrainian airliner was a “disastrous mistake” by forces who were on high alert.

In retaliation for the killing of Qasem Soleimani, head of an elite overseas unit of the Guards, Iranian forces fired missiles at military bases housing US troops in Iraq on Jan. 3.

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Iran backs groups that have entered the fray across the region since Israel launched its invasion of Gaza following the Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel by Hamas.

More than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in six months of Israeli bombardment of Gaza, according to the health ministry there. Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies.

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US, allies believe Iran, proxies will strike Israel soon

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Iran’s Khamenei says Israel ‘must be punished’ for Syria embassy attack

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