FAA Halts US Flights to Tel Aviv Over Security Concerns
FoxNews.com: The Federal Aviation Administration has told all U.S. airlines that flights to Israel’s Tel Aviv airport are prohibited for 24 hours after a rocket from Gaza landed in the area.
Delta Air Lines and United Airlines said earlier Tuesday they are suspending service between the U.S. and Israel indefinitely. US Airways scrapped its Tel Aviv service Tuesday and said it is monitoring the situation in regards to future flights.
The FAA said in a statement that the ban on flights is for 24 hours beginning at 12:15 p.m. ET on Tuesday, and that a rocket landed about one mile from Ben Gurion International Airport Tuesday morning.
The airport is located 50 miles north of Gaza, within range of rockets being fired by the militant group Hamas.
Delta Air Lines' one daily flight was already in the air. Delta said a Boeing 747 from New York was flying over the Mediterranean headed for Tel Aviv when it turned around and flew to Paris instead. Flight 468 had 273 passengers and 17 crew on board.
The notice only applies to U.S. airlines since the FAA has no authority over carriers from other nations.
The FAA said it will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation, and that updated instructions will be provided to U.S. airlines "as soon as conditions permit, but no later than 24 hours" from the time the directive went into force.
Palestinian militants have fired more than 2,000 rockets toward Israel, and several heading toward the area of Ben-Gurion Airport have been intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome defense system, but police spokeswoman Luba Samri said Tuesday's landing was the closet to the airport since fighting began on July 8.
The rocket damaged a house and lightly injured one Israeli in Yehud, a village near the airport, Samri said.
Airlines and passengers are growing more anxious about safety since last week, when a Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board. Airlines have rerouted planes to avoid the area over eastern Ukraine where pro-Soviet separatists are battling the Ukrainian army.
A Delta spokesman declined to go beyond the details released in a statement.
United Airlines has canceled its two daily flights to Israel out of Newark, N.J., according to spokesman Rahsaan Johnson.
US Airways, which has one daily flight from Philadelphia, canceled that flight Tuesday and the return trip from Tel Aviv.
"We are in constant contact with the FAA and are monitoring the situation closely," said Casey Norton, spokesman for US Airways' parent company American Airlines. The airline has not yet made a decision about flights to Israel scheduled for Wednesday and beyond.
Israel's Transportation Ministry called on the companies to reverse their decision and said it was trying to explain that the airport was "safe for landings and departures."
"There is no reason for the American companies to stop their flight and give a prize to terror," Israeli Transportation Minister Israel Katz told The Jerusalem Post.
The order could take a toll on Israel’s economy, according to the Jerusalem Post.
"As soon as the FAA gives such an order to US carriers, in most cases it's a domino effect, and most European carriers will be forced to suspend their flights," an industry source told the newspaper. "This is a huge coup for Hamas."
A representative of Germany’s national airline, Lufthansa, told Fox News at its ticketing office in London’s Heathrow Airport Tuesday that all of its flights to Tel Aviv have been canceled.
A spokesman for Air France told Reuters that all of the airliner’s flights to Tel Aviv have been canceled as well.