The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a 24-hour ban on U.S. airlines flying in and out of Israel as violence wrecks the region.
Delta and United Airlines have halted flights to Israel indefinitely.
A Delta flight from New York to Tel Aviv was diverted on Tuesday amid reports that a rocket landed near Ben Gurion Airport, the Associated Press reports. The plane turned around mid-flight and headed to Paris.
U.S. Airways canceled its Tuesday flight from Philadelphia to Tel Aviv.
There have been several red alerts in Lod, the town near Tel Aviv where the international airport is located, since the escalation between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organisation, began two weeks ago.
It’s long been thought that the potential inoperability of Ben Gurion is a strategic red line for Israel.
“We do not want missiles on Petah Tikva, or Grads on the Ben-Gurion international airport,” Benjamin Netanyahu said during a major 2009 address on the peace process at Bar Ilan University, early during his term as Israel’s Prime Minister.
Israel has other commercial airports, in Haifa, the Red Sea resort city of Eilat, and Sde Dov, in northern Tel Aviv. But Haifa and Eilat have both come under rocket fire during this latest conflict, and the Eilat airport doesn’t have a long enough runway to accommodate a trans-Atlantic jet liner.
Here’s the statement from Delta:
Delta has suspended service until further notice to and from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv and its New York-JFK hub. 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 flight 468, a Boeing 747 from JFK with 273 passengers and 17 crew, diverted to Paris-Charles de Gaulle Tuesday after reports of a rocket or associated debris near the airport in Tel Aviv. Delta is working to reaccommodate these customers.
Delta continues to work closely with U.S. and other government resources to monitor the situation. A customer waiver for travel to Tel Aviv is in effect and published on delta.com.
United sent this statement to Business Insider:
We are suspending operations to/from Tel Aviv until further notice. We are working with government officials to ensure the safety of our customers and our employees and will continue to evaluate the situation.
And the FAA sent this statement:
At 12:15 EST on July 22, 2014, the FAA issued a notice to airmen (NOTAM) informing U.S. airlines that they are prohibited from flying to or from Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport for a period of up to 24 hours. The notice was issued in response to a rocket strike which landed approximately one mile from Ben Gurion International Airport on the morning of July 22, 2014. The NOTAM applies only to U.S. operators, and has no authority over foreign airlines operating to or from the airport.
The FAA immediately notified U.S. carriers when the agency learned of the rocket strike and informed them that the agency was finalising a NOTAM.
The FAA will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation. Updated instructions will be provided to U.S. airlines as soon as conditions permit, but no later than 24 hours from the time the NOTAM went into force.
The U.S. State Department issued a travel warning for Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza on Monday that recommended that U.S. citizens defer any non-essential travel to those areas.
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