German airline Lufthansa has suspended flights to Tehran amid the threat of a retaliatory air strike on Israel by Iran.

A Luthansa spokesperson told Airport Technology that it has “had to cancel these flights until and including the upcoming Saturday due to the situation in the region.”

Intelligence personnel in the US have warned that major missile or drone strikes by Iran or its various militia proxies are “imminent”, Bloomberg reported.

On 10 April Iran’s leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Israel “must be punished and it shall be” after Israeli warplanes bombed the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria earlier this month, killing seven high-ranking military officials.

Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Israel Katz escalated the war of words with a direct threat to Khamenei on ‘X’.

“If Iran attacks from its territory, Israel will react and attack in Iran,” he wrote.

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Concerns over Tehran’s possible retaliation have been heightened by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s assurances that “the US will stand with Israel against any threats by Iran and its proxies” on 9 April.

Middle East aviation set to continue despite risks

Lufthansa’s announcement prompted concerns around civil aviation in Iran and the wider Middle East.

Despite Lufthansa’s announcement, its subsidiary Austrian Airlines has said its “flight to Tehran scheduled for today will take place.”

“The flight will depart from Vienna several hours late in order to minimise the time between landing and departure in Tehran,” Austrian Airlines spokesperson Anita Kiefer told Airport Technology. “The Vienna-Tehran-Vienna route will be operated without an overnight layover until Saturday 13 April.”

Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines are the only two Western carriers which fly into Tehran, operating at Imam Khomeini International Airport – which oversees more than seven million international passengers yearly.

Most flights to the Iranian capital are served by Turkish and Middle Eastern airlines including Emirates, Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways and Iran Air, none of which have announced flight suspensions.

Emirates and Qatar Airways use Iranian airspace for routes from the Middle East to North America. Both airlines declined to comment when approached by Airport Technology.

Direct conflict aside, there are additional concerns over GPS interference, known as jamming or spoofing.

The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) has intensified GPS jamming in preparation for Iran’s pending retaliation, apparently intended to ward off guided missiles – but this is also disrupting navigation services and daily flight operations in the Middle East. 

Would Iran attack Israel directly?

Iran possesses an arsenal of cruise missiles and drones capable of reaching government and military targets on Israeli soil.

Nonetheless, diplomatic responses from the US and other nations have directed support for Israel against both Iran and “its proxies”.

Formed along Iran’s so-called ‘Axis of Resistance’, these proxies include Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine and the Houthis in Yemen – who have caused severe disruption to Red Sea shipping.

Tehran is known to supply weapons to these militia groups with the intention of countering US and Israeli influence in the Middle East.

Diplomatic concerns remain fixated on Israel and Iran, as the six-month-long conflict, which has resulted in the deaths of more than 1,400 Israelis and 33,100 Palestinians, threatens to spill over.