Possible wreckage from EgyptAir crash washes up in Israel


Debris apparently from the crash of EgyptAir MS804 was found on a beach north of Tel Aviv on Thursday, an official in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said.

Netanyahu, who was briefed about the discovery during a visit to Ethiopia, instructed Israeli authorities to hand over the material to Egypt, possibly as early as Friday, for further analysis, the official said.

The Airbus A320 plunged into the eastern Mediterranean en route from Paris to Cairo on May 19. All 66 people on board were killed. The cause of the crash remains unknown.

Last week, debris from the jet was brought to Cairo airport, where investigators will try to reassemble part of the frame to help establish what might have caused the disaster.

The Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said “parts of an airplane” were discovered on the seashore in Netanya, a Mediterranean resort town about 30 km (18 miles), north of Tel Aviv.

“They were collected and it turns out there is a very high probability that they are from the Egyptian plane,” the official said, without elaborating. “In accordance with international procedures, France, the aircraft's departure point, and Egypt, were informed.”

On Tuesday, sources on the crash investigation committee said audio from the flight deck voice recorder indicates an attempt to put out a fire on board the aircraft before it plunged into the Mediterranean.

At EgyptAir memorial – contempt for foreign criticism of proud nation’s flag carrier


The grim reality of the loss of MS804 came at dusk with the evening memorial service organized by EgyptAir management and the Civil Aviation Ministry at the Mosheer Tantawi Mosque in the suburban Fifth Settlement.

While Aviation Minister Sherif Fathy officially invited “all Egyptians” to commemorate the victims of the disaster, the press was expressly barred and khaki-clad military police guarded the mosque’s massive blue tiled gates.

Prime Minister Sherif Ismail attended the service along with EgyptAir chairman Safwat Musallam and Tourism Minister Yehia Rashed.

On Sunday Fathy issued a statement that “expressed contempt for the international media coverage of the plane crash, rejected claims that Egypt might be at fault for the incident, and emphasized that thorough investigations are still underway.”

His sentiments were echoed in the mosque parking lot which was filled to capacity with microbuses that ferried the airline’s mechanical workers and ground staff from the airport to the mosque, and with Mercedes belonging to the company’s top management and figures from Egypt’s commercial and political elite.

“The plane was loaded and security inspected in Paris and it’s maddening that the world is talking about our airline as though it were responsible,” said Ahmed Haggagovic, the hipster host of Egypt’s top travel TV show “Haggagovic’s Safari.”

EgyptAir crew who attended the service said they were incensed at media reports that pilot Mohamed Said Shaker might have caused the crash either inadvertently by smoking in the cockpit or intentionally as a suicide mission.

“I knew the pilot very well, said Jihan, a 34 year old EgyptAir stewardess. “He had everything in life and was a kind man. Neither he nor his co-pilot smoked.”

The air stewardess insisted extraordinary circumstances had to be the cause of the crash.

“It just doesn’t make sense that this top line aircraft completely fails mid-flight,” said Jihan, who withheld her last name citing EgyptAir company policy.

Hassan Mahmoud, a 62 year old retired Egyptian airforce pilot agreed.

“The fact that the pilot did not signal any distress so close to Alexandria means this was a sudden event and, I’m sorry to say, most likely an act of destruction.”

In a sign that authorities in Cairo expect to be pursuing a terrorism investigation, Nabil Sabek, Egypt's top prosecutor, called Monday on his French counterpart to share all closed circuit video of the doomed aircraft recorded at Charles de Gaulle airport. 

Sabek replaced the attorney general Hisham Barakat who was murdered by Islamist militants in the capital just under one year ago.

EgyptAir jet missing after mid-air plunge, Greeks find floating objects


An EgyptAir jet carrying 66 passengers and crew from Paris to Cairo disappeared from radar over the Mediterranean south of Greece on Thursday, with Athens saying the plane swerved in mid-air before plunging from cruising height and vanishing.

Greek state television said aircraft debris had been found in the sea during a search for the missing Airbus A320. Earlier, Greek officials said pieces of plastic and two lifevests were found floating some 230 miles south of Crete.

Officials were reluctant to speculate over the disappearance while the search was underway. Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said it was too early to rule out any explanation, including an attack like the one blamed for bringing down a Russian airliner over Egypt's Sinai peninsula last year.

But despite the caution, the country's aviation minister said a terrorist attack was more likely to have taken down the aircraft than a technical failure.

In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama received a briefing on the disappearance from his adviser for homeland security and counter-terrorism, the White House said.

In Athens, Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos said the Airbus had first swerved 90 degrees to the left, then spun through 360 degrees to the right. After plunging from 37,000 feet to 15,000, it vanished from Greek radar screens.

Greece deployed aircraft and a frigate to the area to help with the search. Greek defense sources told Reuters earlier that two floating objects, colored white and red, had been spotted in a sea area 230 miles south of the island of Crete.

According to Greece's civil aviation chief, calls from Greek air traffic controllers to the jet went unanswered just before it left the country's airspace, and it disappeared from radar screens soon afterwards.

There was no official suggestion of whether the disappearance was due to technical failure or any other reason such as sabotage by ultra-hardline Islamists, who have targeted airports, airliners and tourist sites in Europe, Egypt, Tunisia and other Middle Eastern countries over the past few years.

The aircraft was carrying 56 passengers – with one child and two infants among them – and 10 crew, EgyptAir said. They included 30 Egyptian and 15 French nationals, along with citizens of 10 other countries.

Asked if he could rule out that terrorists were behind the incident, Prime Minister Ismail told reporters: “We cannot exclude anything at this time or confirm anything. All the search operations must be concluded so we can know the cause.”

French President Francois Hollande also said the cause was unknown. “Unfortunately the information we have … confirms to us that the plane came down and is lost,” he said. “No hypothesis can be ruled out, nor can any be favored over another.”

With its archeological sites and Red Sea resorts, Egypt is traditionally a popular destination for Western tourists. But the industry has been badly hit following the downing of the Russian Metrojet flight last October, killing all 224 people on board, as well as by an Islamist insurgency and a string of bomb attacks.

NO RESPONSE

Greek air traffic controllers spoke to the pilot as the jet flew over the island of Kea, in what was thought to be the last broadcast from the aircraft, and no problems were reported.

But just ahead of the handover to Cairo airspace, calls to the plane went unanswered, before it dropped off radars shortly after exiting Greek airspace, Kostas Litzerakis, the head of Greece's civil aviation department, told Reuters.

“During the transfer procedure to Cairo airspace, about seven miles before the aircraft entered the Cairo airspace, Greek controllers tried to contact the pilot but he was not responding,” he said.

Greek authorities are searching in the area south of the island of Karpathos, Defence Minister Kammenos told a news conference.

“At 3.39am (0039 GMT) the course of the aircraft was south and south-east of Kassos and Karpathos (islands),” he said. “Immediately after, it entered Cairo FIR (flight information region) and made swerves and a descent I describe: 90 degrees left and then 360 degrees to the right.”

The Airbus plunged from 37,000 feet (11,280 meters) to 15,000 feet before vanishing from radar, he added.

Egyptian Civil Aviation minister Sherif Fathi said authorities had tried to resume contact but without success.

“NO ONE KNOWS ANYTHING”

At Cairo airport, authorities ushered families of the passengers and crew into a closed-off waiting area.

Two women and a man, who said they were related to a crew member, were seen leaving the VIP hall where families were being kept. Asked for details, the man said: “We don’t know anything, they don’t know anything. No one knows anything.”

Ayman Nassar, from the family of one of the passengers, also walked out of the passenger hall with his daughter and wife in a distressed state. “They told us the plane had disappeared, and that they’re still searching for it and not to believe any rumors,” he said.

A mother of flight attendant rushed out of the hall in tears. She said the last time her daughter called her was Wednesday night. “They haven’t told us anything,” she said.

EgyptAir said on its Twitter account that Flight MS804 had departed Paris at 23:09 (CEST). It disappeared at 02:30 a.m. at an altitude of 37,000 feet in Egyptian air space, about 280 km (165 miles) from the Egyptian coast before it was due to land at 03:15 a.m.

In Paris, a police source said investigators were now interviewing officers who were on duty at Roissy airport on Wednesday evening to find out whether they heard or saw anything suspicious. “We are in the early stage here,” the source said.

Airbus said the missing A320 was delivered to EgyptAir in November 2003 and had operated about 48,000 flight hours.

The missing flight's pilot had clocked up 6,275 hours of flying experience, including 2,101 hours on the A320, while the first officer had 2,766 hours, EgyptAir said.

At one point EgyptAir said the plane had sent an emergency signal at 04:26 a.m., two hours after it disappeared from radar screens. However, Fathi said later that further checks found that no SOS was received.

FRANCE, EGYPT TO COOPERATE

The weather was clear at the time the plane disappeared, according to Eurocontrol, the European air traffic network.

“Our daily weather assessment does not indicate any issues in that area at that time,” it said.

Under U.N. aviation rules, if the aircraft is found to have crashed in international or Egyptian waters, Egypt will automatically lead an investigation into the accident assisted by countries including France, where the jet was assembled, and the United States, where engine maker Pratt & Whitney is based.

Russia and Western governments have said the Metrojet plane that crashed on Oct. 31 was probably brought down by a bomb, and the Islamic State militant group said it had smuggled an explosive device on board.

That crash called into question Egypt's campaign to eradicate Islamist violence. Militants have stepped up attacks on Egyptian soldiers and police since Sisi, then serving as army chief, toppled elected President Mohamed Mursi, an Islamist, in 2013 after mass protests against his rule.

In March, an EgyptAir plane flying from Alexandria to Cairo was hijacked and forced to land in Cyprus by a man with what authorities said was a fake suicide belt. He was arrested after giving himself up.

EgyptAir has a fleet of 57 Airbus and Boeing jets, including 15 of the Airbus A320 family of aircraft, according to airfleets.com.

Egyptian officials say terrorism more likely than accident in EgyptAir crash


An EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo with 56 passengers and ten crew crashed into the Mediterranean on Thursday, apparently killing everyone on board, and raising fears that it was a terrorist attack. The plane had taken off from Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport in France, and apparently crashed soon after it entered Egyptian airspace.

Among the passengers were 30 Egyptians, 15 French, two Iraqis and one each from several countries including the UK, Belgium, Kuwait and Canada. Signs of possible wreckage were found off the island of Crete, about twelve hours after the crash. The objects were pieces of plastic in white and red and were spotted close to an area where the transponder signal had been emitted.

Egyptian officials said it was too early to tell if the crash was an accident or terrorism, but that terrorism seems more likely. The Airbus A320 was relatively new and known as a safe aircraft.

“If you analysis the situation properly the possibility of having a terror attack is higher than the possibility of having a technical [problem],” Minister of Civil Aviation Sherif Fathy told reporters in Cairo.

Fathy also corrected an early report that said that signal was heard two hours after the flight disappeared from radar.

“There was a mistake made by an official somewhere,” he said. “He talked about a signal and then a few minutes after he came back and apologized, and he came back and said ‘sorry there was no signal’. After his first statement we all went to the press and said the signal was received, thereafter we denied that and we admit there was a mistake that happened.”

The head of Russia’s domestic intelligence agency said he believes the plane was brought down by a terror attack “in all likelihood.”

Alexander Bortnikov, head of the Federal Security Service, called for governments to come together to track down those responsible for the “monstrous attack.”

The crash comes after an Airbus A321 operated by Russia’s Metrojet crashed in the Sinai desert last October killing all 224 people on board. Russia said the plane was most likely brought down by a bomb, and the Islamic State said it had smuggled an explosive device on board.

Reuters later reported that an EgyptAir mechanic, whose cousin joined Islamic State in Syria, was most likely the one who placed the bomb.

In this case, there was no claim of responsibility 12 hours after the plane disappeared. There were no weather disturbances reported, and a British pilot who had been flying in the same area told the BBC that there were no communications problems and the weather was “perfect.”

Even if the crash is eventually ruled an accident, it could have further affect tourism in Egypt. Until the Arab spring protests in 2011, Egypt attracted 15 million visitors a year. That number was down to nine million in 2014, according to Egyptian government figures. So far this year, the numbers are down even further, after the UK and other states warned there was a serious risk of terrorism in Sinai, where the Russian airliner exploded.

“This incident will further damage Egypt’s tourism industry,” Israeli terrorism expert Shlomo Brom of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University told The Media Line. “It will also be a blow to the prestige of EgyptAir as it may show that its security arrangements are not good enough.”

Brom said, however, that as the flight originated in Paris, it is the French government that should be responsible for security.

EgyptAir hijacker reportedly bragged about killing 3 Israeli soldiers


The hijacker of an EgyptAir plane bragged about killing Israeli soldiers, his ex-wife said.

Marina Parschou, who lives in Cyprus, told the island’s main daily newspaper, Phileleftheros, that Seif Eddin Mustafa, an Egyptian, said he participated in the killing of three Israeli soldiers, The Associated Press reported. The report did not provide information on how or where the soldiers were killed.

Parschou also told Phileleftheros that Mustafa did not ask to see her, but that police brought her to Larnaca Airport in Cyprus to identify her ex-husband after the plane landed there.

He was deported to Egypt following domestic violence charges filed by Parschou and reportedly had not seen her or their children in 24 years at the time of the hijacking on Tuesday. Mustafa claimed to be wearing a suicide bomb belt and ordered the plane, which took off from Alexandria en route to Cairo, to land in Cyprus.

Mustafa was subdued and arrested by Cypriot security officials the same afternoon after most of the passengers and crew had been released from the plane.

EgyptAir hijack ends with passengers freed


An EgyptAir plane flying from Alexandria to Cairo was hijacked and forced to land in Cyprus on Tuesday by a man with what authorities said was a fake suicide belt, who was arrested after giving himself up.

The passengers and crew were unharmed. Eighty-one people, including 21 foreigners and 15 crew, were on board the Airbus 320, Egypt's Civil Aviation Ministry said in a statement.

Conflicting theories emerged about the motives of the hijacker, an Egyptian. A senior Cypriot official said he seemed unstable and the incident did not appear related to terrorism. The Cypriot state broadcaster said he had demanded the release of women prisoners in Egypt.

In the midst of the hijack, witnesses said he threw a letter on the apron at Cyprus's Larnaca airport, written in Arabic, and asked that it be delivered to his Cypriot ex-wife.

After the aircraft landed at Larnaca, negotiations began and everyone on board was freed except three passengers and four crew, Egypt's Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fethy said.

Soon afterwards, Cypriot television footage showed several people leaving the plane via the stairs and another man climbing out of the cockpit window and running off.

The hijacker then surrendered to authorities.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said the hijacker had threatened to blow himself up and demanded that the aircraft be refueled and head to Istanbul.

“It looks like he realized his demands would not be met, allowing the last two hostages, Britons, to flee the aircraft. He also tried to leave, running out. He was arrested,” said Kasoulides.

“The explosives on him were examined. They weren’t explosives, but mobile phone covers.”

Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said the hijacker would be questioned to ascertain his motives. “At some moments he asked to meet with a representative of the European Union and at other points he asked to go to another airport but there was nothing specific,” he said.

“ABNORMAL” HIJACKER

Egypt's Civil Aviation Ministry said the pilot, Omar al-Gammal, had told authorities that he was threatened by a passenger who claimed to be wearing an explosive belt and forced him to divert the plane to Larnaca.

Reached by telephone, Gammal told Reuters that the hijacker seemed “abnormal”. Sounding exhausted, he said he had been obliged to treat the man as a serious security threat.

Photographs on Egyptian state television showed a middle-aged man on a plane wearing glasses and displaying a white belt with bulging pockets and protruding wires.

Television channels showed video footage of the hijacker, identified as Seif Eldin Mustafa, 59, being searched by security men at a metal detector at Borg al-Arab airport in Alexandria.

Interior Ministry officials said he was expelled from law school and had a long criminal record, including robberies.

Fethy, the Egyptian minister, said authorities suspected the suicide belt was not genuine but treated the incident as serious to ensure the safety of all those on board.

“We cannot say this was a terrorist act… he was not a professional,” Fethy told reporters after the incident.

EgyptAir delayed a New York-bound flight from Cairo onto which some passengers of the hijacked plane had been due to connect. Fethy said it was delayed partly due to a technical issue but partly as a precaution.

The hijacked plane remained on the tarmac at Larnaca throughout the morning while Cypriot security forces took up positions around the scene.

EGYPT'S IMAGE

The incident will deal another blow to Egypt's tourism industry and hurt efforts to revive an economy hammered by political unrest following the 2011 uprising that ousted veteran ruler Hosni Mubarak.

The sector, a main source of hard currency for the import-dependent county, was already reeling from the crash of a Russian passenger plane in the Sinai peninsula in late October.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has said the Russian plane was brought down by a terrorist attack. Islamic State has said it planted a bomb on board, killing all 224 people on board.

The latest incident raised renewed questions over airport security, though it was not clear whether the hijacker was even armed. Ismail said stringent measures were in place.

Passengers on the plane included eight Americans, four Britons, four Dutch, two Belgians, an Italian, a Syrian and a French national, the Civil Aviation Ministry said.

Cyprus has seen little militant activity for decades, despite its proximity to the Middle East.

A botched attempt by Egyptian commandos to storm a hijacked airliner at Larnaca airport led to the disruption of diplomatic relations between Cyprus and Egypt in 1978.

In 1988, a Kuwaiti airliner which had been hijacked from Bangkok to Kuwait in a 16-day siege had a stopover in Larnaca, where two hostages were killed.

Tense airplane drama dissolves into bedroom farce


Passengers on EgyptAir flight MS181 from Alexandria to Cairo took off into bright skies at 6:30 am, then, rather quickly, noticed the flight veer towards the sea.

There is no body of water between Egypt’s two largest cities which are separated by 179 kilometers of desert.

Thus began a tense episode of time travel back to the 1970s when bell-bottoms, unruly curls, political polemic and dangerous airport standoffs viewed through grainy screens were commonplace.

Initial reports spoke of a man wearing a suicide belt who demanded that the pilots fly to Turkey. After being informed there was insufficient fuel on board, the unlikely hijacker agreed to a diversion to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus.

Witnesses described a jet on a distant runway, Special Forces concealed behind flimsy walls, a jeep driving around, then a slow stream of passengers, initially women and children, descending from the plane. It may well have been 1973.

Terror in the age of the Islamic State is not usually quite so balmy.

Observing the scene, one Greek analyst ventured to report that “it could be a mental disturbance and have nothing to do with terror, maybe a somewhat unstable man…”

Then, Cypriot media began reporting that the man’s motives were, “um, romantic?” He requested that a letter be delivered to his former wife, resident in a nearby Cypriot village.

Aviv Oreg, the former head of the Israeli army’s Global Jihad desk and a former security officer with El Al Airlines, told The Media Line that the events unfolding in Larnaca, Cyprus’ capital, looked like “a personal thing. This happens from time.”

“I’m not shocked,” he said. “Explosives can be things you buy at the supermarket or pharmacy… anyone online can find instructions on how to make a bomb.”

After several misidentifications, including one involving a professor of veterinary medicine at the University of Alexandria, who, alarmed, called the BBC to announce that he was not the hijacker but merely a passenger stuck on the plane, the culprit was identified as Seif Eldin Mustafa, an Egyptian living in Cyprus.

He had told the pilot that he was wearing a suicide belt and threatened to detonate it.

He had given Cypriot authorities a handwritten letter in Arabic demanding the release of political prisoners in Egypt and insisting on a meeting with his former wife.

Mrs. Mustafa was duly transported to Larnaca airport and the Internet into high comedy mode.

Khaled Diab, Egyptian author and blogger, posted a personal message to the man he called the #lovejacker: “Next time, send flowers, you idiot!”

“One man's terrorist is another woman's lover-boy. #EgyptAir” he later added.

A tweeter using the handle @IronyisFunny posted “All moderate ex-husbands must now condemn this #EgyptAir Hijacking!”

Holly Dagres, the Iranian-American commentator, added “After #LoveJacking of #EgyptAir flight, bar is now set extremely high for men to show their love. #Egypt

An Egyptian travel agency called Lion’s Trips cheerfully proposed passengers book a flight to the Egyptian resort town of “Hurghada with us and… possibly end up in Cyprus, or, who knows. France or Italy. It’s a crapshoot!”

Speaking with The Media Line, Diab, who was doing French homework with his son, said that “most people seem to be taking it with a mix of relief and humor, especially jokes about the bad internet connection and postal service that forced the guy to deliver his letter by hand, or jokes about passengers grateful to be in Cyprus.”

“Who knows,” Diab pondered. “I mean, he could be like a lot of bigger-than-tragic figures in Arabic poetry, just a hopeless romantic or a terrible stalker or a combination of the two.”

After EgyptAir hijacking, Israeli Air Force jets take to skies


The Israeli Air Force scrambled its jets after the hijacking of an EgyptAir plane traveling from Alexandria to Cairo.

The plane was taken to Cyprus on Tuesday morning after a passenger threatened to blow himself up. It was not known if the passenger had a bomb strapped to himself, though he was treated as if he did.

EgyptAir flight MS181, landed in Larnaca, located on the southern coast of Cyprus, where the hijacker allowed most of the 81 passengers, including several Americans, and crew off the plane. Four crew members and three foreign passengers remained on board, according to the Egyptian aviation minister.

The hijacker was arrested by Cypriot security officials the same afternoon, ending the standoff.

The case has not been ruled a terrorist incident, as the would-be bomber reportedly had asked to see his estranged wife.

“It is not something which has to do with terrorism,” Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades told reporters.

The Israeli war planes were deployed to protect Israel’s airspace, the IDF said.

“IDF planes were called up in light of the hijacking of an Egyptian plane to ensure Israeli airspace was not breached. When the plane landed in Cyprus, they returned to their base,” the IDF spokesman said.

Syrian fighting decimates tourism industry


Damascus is believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. International flights into and out of the capital continued despite throughout 20-months of fighting between troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and the rebels seeking to depose him. But as of Friday, the flights have stopped.

The decision was taken and all flights were cancelled when government jets bombed rebel positions close to the airport. EgyptAir announced on Sunday that it would resume flights to Damascus, but that did not appear to happen. The Egyptian flag-carrier had been operating daily flights between Cairo and Damascus, as well as several weekly flights from Cairo to Aleppo.

Ali Zein El-Abedeen of EgyptAir told The Media Line that flights to Aleppo were resumed on Monday, but the flight to Damascus did not take off.

In any case, the nation’s tourism industry, an important sector in quieter times, has — not surprisingly — been decimated by the fighting, which has left more than 40,000 Syrians, many of them civilians, dead. Tourism was responsible for five percent of Syria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2011, and directly supported 270,000 jobs according to a report by the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Arab tourists do not need visas to visit Syria, and more than three million traditionally come annually for family visits or on business.

“I used to go to Syria for a week every month,” Adnan Habbab, the owner of Nawafir Tours in Jordan told The Media Line. “There are 3,000 archaeological sites in Syria alone.”

It takes just two hours to drive, or 25 minutes to fly between Amman and Damascus. Habbab’s agency marketed week-long tours of Jordan, Lebanon and Syria to Europeans and sold between 10,000 and 12,000 packages every year. They even opened two hotels in Damascus. Now, he says, he has laid- off  90 of his one hundred employees.

“We lost millions of dollars in profit,” he said. “Since May 2011, everyone has cancelled their trips to Syria.”

The American government has issued a stern warning against travel to Syria.

“The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against travel to Syria and strongly recommends that U.S. citizens remaining in Syria depart immediately,” the warning says. “This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning dated August 1, 2012, to remind U.S. citizens that the security situation remains volatile and unpredictable throughout the country, with an increased risk of kidnappings, and to update contact information.
No part of Syria should be considered immune from violence, and the potential exists throughout the country for hostile acts, including kidnappings.”

While several foreign airlines including Air Arabia and Fly Dubai, in addition to EgyptAir, had been operating flights to Damascus, they had cut their numbers significantly during the past few months. Only a handful of flights were landing in Damascus even before the current stoppage.

“Damascus has always been a place where flight service has been incredibly volatile,” Toby Nicol, the communications director for the World Travel and Tourism Council told The Media Line. “Ettihad Air was due to resume flying next month, and Air Dubai still lists flights to Syria, but I have no idea of who is currently flying.”

Nicols says that he has not visited Damascus and does not plan to in the near future.

“It’s one of those places where I always meant to go but never got around to it,” he said. “Now it will probably have to wait for at least 18 months.”

There seems to be no end in sight for the fighting in Syria. Turkish officials said Syria resumed an aerial attack on the rebel-held town of Ras al-Ain, near the border with Turkey. They said two bombs hit a Syrian security building that had been captured by the rebels.

The officials said shrapnel from the bombing landed on Turkish territory but no one was injured.

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