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Israeli Passengers at Belgrade Airport Disturbed by Announcement: ‘Flight to Palestine Departing From Gate C3′

Israeli passengers waiting for a recent Tel Aviv-bound flight at an airport near the Serbian capital of Belgrade were disturbed when a loud-speaker announcement referred to their destination as “Palestine,” the Hebrew news site Ynet reported on Tuesday.

The incident took place on August 29 at Nikola Tesla Airport. As passengers gathered to board Air Serbia Flight 816 to Ben-Gurion International Airport, an employee twice said over the intercom, “The flight to Palestine will depart from Gate C3.”

“I could not believe my ears,” one Israeli passenger told Ynet. “At first I thought I had misheard, and asked other people if they also heard ‘Palestine’ in the announcement. They told me I was right.”

The passenger continued: “I went up to the airline counter with another Israeli and asked that an announcement be made that the flight was to Israel, not Palestine.” An airline representative then told them that the flight was to “Tel Aviv, not Israel.”

After a prolonged discussion involving the airline representative and a number of other individuals, an announcement was made three times that the flight was to Tel Aviv. The Israeli passengers also received an apology from the airline representative for the use of the word “Palestine” in the previous announcements.

The Israeli passenger interviewed by Ynet subsequently filed a complaint with the Israeli Embassy in Serbia.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon called the incident “very upsetting.”

“It is unimaginable that an airport official with a microphone would distort reality like this in such a provocative and false manner,” Nahshon was quoted by Ynet as saying. “The Israeli Embassy [in Belgrade] will give the matter top priority.”

According to the Ynet report, Israeli Ambassador to Serbia Alona Fisher-Kamm contacted Air Serbia CEO Dane Kondic, who expressed shock over what happened. Kondic told her that this was the first such incident involving Air Serbia and that it was unacceptable. The Air Serbia CEO added that airline employees are not permitted to express political views while at work. The use of the word “Palestine,” he said, “does not reflect the position of the airline.”

Kondic apologized for the incident and pledged it would not recur. He later contacted Fisher-Kamm again to say that he had asked the airport to take action against the employee in question, due to the harm the incident had caused to Air Serbia’s reputation.

Air Serbia is the flag carrier and largest airline in the southeastern European nation.

Last year, as reported by The Algemeiner, an Iberia Airlines pilot was suspended for announcing in Spanish to passengers on a Tel Aviv-bound flight that “we will be landing soon in Palestine.” In his announcement in English, the pilot changed the word “Palestine” to “Tel Aviv,” but he did not use the word “Israel” in either announcement.

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Temple Mount temporarily closed to Jewish visitors after clashes with police

The Temple Mount was temporarily closed to Jewish visitors on Wednesday at the order of Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy after Jews broke visitation rules at the holy site, police said. The Jewish visitors were expelled from the compound for bringing sacred books to the Mount and trying to pray there. After one of the individuals was cautioned, another took out a holy book, and the group was expelled. Meanwhile, renewed clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli security forces near the Lion's Gate in the Old City, where police used stun grenades against the demonstrators. A regular dynamic has developed involving clashes between Palestinians and Israel Police over the past several days near the Lion's Gate. Dozens of Palestinians are present at the site on a regular basis, urging devotion to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and condemning Israel. During Muslim prayer times, particularly the midday and nighttime prayers, hundreds and sometimes even thousands have been gathering there.

There have been outbreaks of violence during these periods, including stone-throwing or physical confrontations with the police. In most of these incidents, the police have been using stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets to disperse the crowds. In a number of cases, journalists in the area have also suffered violence at the hands of the police. On Tuesday, Hassan Shaalan, a reporter for the Ynet news website, was struck by a policeman even after he identified himself as a member of the press. A group of Jerusalem-based journalists released a statement of condemnation over the incident and called on the police to permit reporters to do their jobs. The Jerusalem Police responded: "This involved an incident that took place in the course of violent disturbances of the peace that occurred in Jerusalem while the police were acting to remove the demonstrators from the street after some of them refused to vacate. The forces working on the scene are under constant threat to their lives. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.802141

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