The conflict between Israel and Gaza is not confined within the borders, leading to spillover risk for civil aviation across the region
What is the immediate risk over Israel/Gaza?
There are several immediate risks to consider if operating into or over this region:
- Unintentional targeting: Rockets, missiles, anti-aircraft weapons and other airborne weaponry and projectiles may unintentionally target or strike aircraft
- Defence systems: Israel has multiple short, mid and long range defence systems. While the likelihood of unintentional targeting of civil aircraft is low, debris from intercepted weapons may impact aircraft
- Weaponised drones and BVR weapons: The use of these is growing leading to further risk to civil aircraft
- GPS jamming and spoofing: Reports of this occurring the region have increased, and loss or degradation of navigation systems or capability can cause knock on safety risks including potential entry into high risk airspace
- Increase in military traffic: Israel have been carrying out airstrikes against the Gaza region leading to an increase in military traffic
What spillover risk is being seen?
Lebanon are not directly involved in the conflict, however their ties with Iran and Iranian groups involved in the conflict have led to increased tension with Israel. Ground based fire along the border has been reported as well as an increase in GPS jamming events.
The primary risk here is safety and security on the ground, as well as political considerations in case of diversions into Lebanon.
Iran has been considered a high risk and active conflict zone for a long time. Conflict with Iraq and involvement in the Kurdish/Syrian conflict, as well as tensions with the USA have led to long term warnings regarding Iranian airspace.
Involvement in the Israel/Gaza conflict has further increased tensions and conflict between Iran and neighbouring countries.
There are active warnings and restrictions in place throughout Iranian airspace. The EASA CZIB is currently withdrawn, but available to view here.
The Sinai peninsular is considered a higher risk region because of its positioning between several countries with high tensions/conflict.
In October 2023 Houthi rebels fired missiles towards Israel which were intercepted by a US warship. Missiles also impacted southern Egyption towns of Taba and Nuweiba.
These present a growing and serious risk to aircraft operating in the Red Sea region, which is a fairly major airspace for aircraft routing from Europe and Africa to the Middle East.
The UK CAA has released a NOTAM warning of the risk to aircraft operating over the Red Sea and Gulf of Aqaba.
Houthi rebels based in Yemen are involving themselves in the conflict in order to show support for Iran. They have fired numerous missiles towards Israel and Egypt.
On November 7th, they shot down a USA drone operating over international waters off the coast of Yemen.
This presents a potentially major risk for aircraft routing on the offshore routes in Yemen airspace.
MIDDLE EAST REGION
The proximity of countries such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia to active conflict zones, along with increasing tensions across the region, result in a growing risk to civil aircraft.
Increased GPS jamming and spoofing events have been reported in Iraq, as well as Türkiye.
Saudi Arabia is targeted by Houthi rebels due to their involvement in the Yemen conflict. Recently, airports have been closing at short notice due ‘security concerns’ which may be linked to Yemen militants sending missiles towards Israel – this includes OEJN/Jeddah airport. The western coast and southern regions may see an increase in risk. Saudi utilise ‘ESCAT’ procedures ad crew operating in their airspace should be familiar with these.
The UAE has warned of further spillover risk, highlighting the possibility of groups taking advantage of volatility in the region and targeting countries and particularly oil supply lines to further increase conflict. The UAE was previously targeted by Houthi missiles and drones.
Syria is an active conflict zone and a ‘No Fly’ zone. The conflict here has expanded to impact the southern borders of Türkiye. Recently, the USA have been carrying airstrikes out on targets in Syria where Iranian groups involved with Hamas are said to be operating.
What mitigations are in place?
The primary place to find warnings, cautions and restrictions on operating in any of the region can be found on the EASA CZIB site.
Appendix E of ICAO Doc 10084 contains a risk mitigation inventory for aircraft flying over or into conflict zones.
EASA have updated their SIB providing guidance on GPS interference from jamming/spoofing
Operators should also carry out risk assessments using information from official sources.
Awareness of the current limitations as to the intent and capability of different factions should be factored in. Current level restrictions are generally limited to FL260/FL320 which may only mitigate against MANPADs. Developments to weapon range and capability are not necessarily known or considered.