Trans World Airlines suddenly halted its New York-Tel Aviv service on Thursday, surprising both passengers and former TWA staffers in Israel, who have been fighting the airline in local courts, in an effort to secure $13m in unpaid compensation.

Nine days ago a Tel Aviv District Court judge issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the U.S.-based carrier from removing or selling any of its Israeli assets, or transferring their ownership. The injunction came at the request of TWA's 102 Israeli employees and pensioners who said that they would be left without jobs, and that no one would finance their severance and pension benefits.

Meanwhile, TWA spokeswoman Julia Bishop-Cross admitted that the airline had decided to halt the 54-year old New York to Tel Aviv route, after an Israeli court ruled in favor of the employees on Wednesday, calling for the liquidation of TWA's Israeli assets.

"We had no choice but to protect the assets, including the aircraft. The aircraft was at risk of seizure if it landed in Tel Aviv," she said. "We took the only action we could. We have indefinitely decided to suspend the service," she concluded.