Israel: ‘No Reason Whatsoever That American Companies Would Stop Their Flights And Hand Terror A Prize’
ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS News/CBS Atlanta/AP) — The Federal Aviation Administration is telling U.S. airlines they are prohibited from flying to the Tel Aviv airport in Israel after a Hamas rocket exploded nearby.
The FAA said in a statement that the ban on flights is for 24 hours beginning at 12:15 p.m. EST on Tuesday.
The notice to airmen was issued “in response to a rocket strike which landed approximately one mile from Ben Gurion International Airport,” the FAA said in a statement.
The notice only applies to U.S. airlines since the FAA has no authority over carriers from other nations. However, shortly after the FAA announcement, Air France, KLM and Lufthansa suspended all flights to Tel Aviv over safety concerns.
The agency 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.
The announcement came after two U.S. airlines had already cancelled all flights to Israel until further notice.
Delta Air Lines and United Airlines said Tuesday they were 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.
“We are working with government officials to ensure the safety of our customers and our employees and will continue to evaluate the situation,” United said in a statement.
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.
“Delta, in coordination with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, is doing so to ensure the safety and security of our customers and employees,” Delta said in a statement.
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.
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 Tel Aviv suburb near the airport, Samri said.
Earlier, Israel’s Transportation Ministry called on U.S. airlines to reverse their decision and said it was trying to explain that the airport was “safe for landings and departures.”
“Ben-Gurion Airport is safe and completely guarded and there is no reason whatsoever that American companies would stop their flights and hand terror a prize,” it said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Israeli airstrikes pummeled a wide range of locations in Gaza and diplomatic efforts intensified to end the two-week war that has killed at least 609 Palestinians and 29 Israelis – 27 soldiers and two civilians. The U.N. office of humanitarian affairs estimates that at least 75 percent of the Palestinian deaths were civilians, including dozens of children.
The fate of another Israeli soldier who went missing following a deadly battle in the Gaza Strip remained unknown, a defense official said Tuesday.
It was not immediately known if the missing soldier was alive or dead, the Israeli defense official told The Associated Press. The disappearance raised the possibility that he had been captured by Hamas – a nightmare scenario for Israel. In the past, Israel has paid a heavy price in lopsided prisoner swaps to retrieve captured soldiers or remains held by its enemies.
Egypt, Israel and the U.S. back an unconditional cease-fire, to be followed by talks on a possible new border arrangement for Gaza. Israel and Egypt have severely restricted movement in and out of Gaza since Hamas seized the territory in 2007.
In Cairo, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Egyptian officials Tuesday in the highest-level push yet to end the deadly conflict. Ban then traveled to Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the international community to hold Hamas accountable for the latest round of violence, saying its refusal to agree to a cease-fire had prevented an earlier end to the fighting.
“What we’re seeing here with Hamas is another instance of Islamist extremism, violent extremism that has no resolvable grievance,” Netanyahu said at a joint press conference with Ban in Tel Aviv. He compared Hamas with al Qaeda and extremist Islamic militant groups in Iraq, Syria and Africa.
“Hamas is like ISIS, Hamas is like al Qaeda, Hamas is like Hezbollah, Hamas is like Boko Haram,” he said.
Netanyahu was responding to a call by Ban that the sides address the root causes of the fighting and work toward bringing about a two-state solution.
“My message to Israelis and Palestinians is the same: stop fighting, start talking and take on the root causes of the conflict so we are not back to the same situation in another six months or a year,” Ban said. Netanyahu responded that Hamas, a group whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel, does not want a two-state solution.
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