In an escalation of events between Bahrain and Lebanon following the Hezbollah leader’s speech, Bahrain has announced that all Gulf Air and Bahrain Air flights between Beirut and Manama have been suspended (Arabic).
The Authority for Civil Aviation Affairs in Bahrain, has halted all flights by Gulf Air and Bahrain Air to and from Lebanon, in response a new “interference in internal affairs” of the kingdom by Hezbollah, according to news agency Bahrain.
The agency said that the Commission “announced the halt of all flights of Gulf Air and Bahrain Air to and from Lebanon indefinitely.”
The statement added that “such attitudes and interference in the internal affairs of Bahrain and the GCC countries is bad for the relations between Lebanon and our countries and harms the interests of Lebanon, particularly in the GCC.”
There are also unconfirmed reports that Bahrain is detaining Lebanese who are accused of “contacting foreign parties” as well as news through the grapevine that Lebanese passport holders are being denied visas and residency permits in the Kingdom.
One Lebanese resident of Bahrain said Tuesday he had initially been denied entry to the country when he tried to return from a brief business trip.
At least 1,500 Lebanese live in Bahrain and a group of expatriates issued a statement Sunday, distancing the community from Nasrallah’s comments.
Update – March 23, 2011
Both Gulf Air and Bahrain Air websites state that the suspension of flights to Beirut is temporary. According to Gulf Air, the suspension will remain in effect until March 25. Passengers booked to fly to Beirut between March 23 and 25 can reschedule their flight. However, Bahrain Air states that the suspension is until March 30.
Additionally, both airlines claim the reason is commercial – lack of demand. Gulf Air claims the fall in demand is due to the “on-going situation in the region”.
Update – March 27, 2011
Gulf Air reports that flights to Beirut will remain suspended until March 31st.