Air France flight makes an unplanned refueling stop in war-torn Syria
On Wednesday, a flight from France to Lebanon was rerouted to Syria because of unsafe conditions at the airport in Beirut. Beirut, Lebanon’s capital city, is experiencing violence as a result of the civil war in neighboring Syria.
Syria’s capital, Damascus, provided the nearest airport for Air France Flight 562 to land at due to a limited fuel supply. The crew initially considered landing in Amman, Jordan, but did not have enough fuel.
Once the flight landed in Damascus, the crew, desperate for a way to refuel the plane and leave the war-torn country, asked passengers for cash. The Damascus airport refueling crew refuses credit cards, since it cannot process them due to Western sanctions.
Air France managed to handle the situation without taking the passengers cash, and the plane passed through the island of Cyprus before finally landing in Beirut on Thursday.
The danger to the passengers in Damascus came not only from the general chaos in Syria, but also from strained relations between Paris and Damascus. France, reports the New York Times, has been extremely vocal in its disdain for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said on Friday, “The Syrian regime should be smashed fast.”
The French ambassador to Syria has been pulled, and according to Reuters, Air France discontinued service to Damascus in March. Furthermore, the European Union has barred the Syrian national airline from landing within EU borders.