FAA suspends U.S. flights to Israel, citing security concerns
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Federal Aviation Administration has told U.S. airlines that they are prohibited from flying to or from Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport for up to 24 hours.
“The notice was issued in response to a rocket strike which landed approximately one mile” from the airport Tuesday morning, the FAA said.
The suspension comes amid a conflict between Israel and militants in Gaza. The Israeli military said at least 41 rockets were fired from the Palestinian territory toward Israel on Tuesday.
Operations at the airport in Tel Aviv continued Tuesday after the FAA issued its order, according to CNN’s Atika Shubert, who was reporting from Ben Gurion Airport. Shubert said she saw a rocket being intercepted near the airport. “This is the environment that the planes are flying in and out of,” she said.
At least two U.S. airlines had already suspended flights to Israel on Tuesday before the FAA notice, with one company specifically citing a rocket attack near Tel Aviv.
Delta Air Lines and American Airlines both told CNN they suspended service to Ben Gurion Airport.
One immediate effect of Delta’s decision: Delta Flight 468, which left New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Tuesday with 273 passengers, diverted to Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport instead of heading to Tel Aviv as scheduled, the airline said.
The American Airlines flights in question — between Philadelphia and Ben Gurion — are operated by US Airways, said American spokesman Casey Norton.
The Israel Airport Authority told CNN that the U.S. companies made the decisions on their own, and it urged them to reconsider, saying the airport was safe. “There is no reason that American carriers should stop flying to Israel and thus give a prize to terror,” it said.
Several European airlines have also decided to halt flights to Israel. The Lufthansa Group has suspended flights to Israel for the next 36 hours, which includes Lufthansa’s Austrian and Swiss flights, a Lufthansa official told CNN’s Richard Quest.
Dutch flag carrier KLM has canceled a flight to Israel which was due to depart Tuesday evening. The company says it is still looking into whether future flights will also be canceled.
The suspensions come a day after the U.S. State Department asked Americans to consider deferring nonessential travel to Israel and the West Bank.
Monday’s travel warning reaffirmed existing guidance against any travel to Gaza, which the State Department says “is under the control of Hamas, a foreign terrorist organization.” The department urged U.S. citizens already in Gaza to depart immediately.
Visitors to Israel should familiarize themselves with the nearest bomb shelters in case of attack and should avoid areas of Israel near Gaza because of the possibility of attacks from Gaza “with little or no warning,” the advisory says.